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With rogue police running riot, it’s risky to arm private guards

Monday October 14 2019

Private security guards

Private security guards march past the reviewing stand during Labour Day celebrations at Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground in Kisumu on May 1, 2019. It is unwise to arm private guards. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

KALTUM GUYO
By KALTUM GUYO
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I did write in this space about the dangers of arming private guards.

This is a matter that now needs serious reconsideration in light of abuse of power and live ammunition by the police.

The level of criminality reportedly involving the police is stuff for Hollywood movies; unfortunately, it is real and ordinary Kenyans that bear the brunt of the vice.

The video of bar owners in Kayole allegedly threatened with shooting if they failed to bribe the police is spine-chilling. And Lamu residents recently reported being maimed, tortured and beaten by officers overzealously searching for a lost colleague.

Without going into Willie Kimani’s case in detail for legal reasons, we should still feel concerned that it is police officers facing murder charges in one of the most shocking cases of homicide in Kenya.

We also have a case involving a group of officers from Kayole suspected to be behind the alleged armed robbery of businessmen in Eastleigh. That followed the Sh72 million heist, again allegedly by police officers.

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BRUTALITY

Overall, cases of officers being part and parcel of an avalanche of well-choreographed thefts have hit the headlines daily.

But you don’t solve this level of crime by arming another bunch of security personnel, private or public. It is the most irresponsible thing to do.

It will only add fuel to the fire by giving even more people arms to join the fray of robbing and looting in the guise of fighting crime.

Police have been allowed to handle policing matters and citizens in a heavy-handed way, such that they deploy the same tactics when they want to rob and extort money from ordinary wananchi.

The change of name in the Constitution does not seem to have made a dent in how the crop of modern police need to deal with the public — in a dignified way, within the law.

The brutality meted out by the police is a remnant of colonial laws used to intimidate Africans by their white masters. The colonial Emergency Law should not have a place in Kenya.

POOR TRAINING

These are habits that have been expunged by the Constitution in order to indigenise policing matters and make them much more humane and just.

I am in London, being inconvenienced and stressed like many other people by ‘Extinction Rebellion’ demonstrators against climate change.

They have literally taken over the city but there is no stopping them since they are exercising their civic right as provided for in law.

It is sobering for me to see how the police handle the unruly demonstrators respectfully and with dignity, even as they escort them to the police cells.

Watching the Kenyan police last week harass and stop Mombasa residents from peacefully demonstrating against the SGR shows that the spirit of the Constitution is not being adhered to.

One is left wondering whether the National Police Service has done enough to train its officers on the Constitution and instil in them their legal responsibilities.

Why are our officers so aggressive towards the public? And why are they out in force to stop people from exercising their right to protest?

POLICING CULTURE

The most important question to ask, in fact, is, why do police treat citizens as the enemy rather than people to whom they owe legal duty of care?

The answer to my last question lies, perhaps, in the policing culture that has been left to fester for decades — that of brutality, extrajudicial killings and extortion. It also lies in how we train the police.

If you teach a dog to bite, that is exactly what it is going to do, but if you teach it to sniff out drugs, play in a circus or be a Seeing Eye dog for the blind, it will do just that.

The intention behind changing the police from a “force” to a “service” was to inculcate the true culture of "Utumishi Kwa Wote" in our officers.

However, the reverse is what is happening. The police are out to serve themselves rather than the public, and this must change.

Going by the rise in the number of officers involved in crime, the last thing we need is a bunch of people with no legal mandate to maintain law and order to be armed.

ATTITUDE CHANGE

If rogue police officers allegedly lease out their guns to criminals, what would prevent a low-paid private security guard from selling his?

This status quo leaves us diving blind into dangerous waters as far as anti-crime policy is concerned.

The important thing to do is tear up the current syllabus for the police and draw up one informed by the Constitution. Police don’t need a change in uniform but attitude towards law and order.

Secondly, firearms must be drawn from the hands of the police and private guards to minimise abuse of their use.

Not all police officers, clearly, qualify to hold a gun — as demonstrated by runaway extrajudicial killings and, now, armed robbery by the police. It is time we used common sense in policing matters.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo

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