The dark days of President Moi would see violent clashes between the police and civilians, due to the government’s ban of peaceful demonstrations. Many were filled with fear and apprehension; they would hear about the violence and turn a blind eye. Two presidents and several technological advancements later, and you’d believe we live in a different, more independent Kenya. With thousands of people in Nairobi being proud owners of smartphones, discovering the latest events and happenings out there has never been easier. A tap into your social media and you can quickly figure out what’s trending.
The first time I heard of the recent police brutality was while scrolling through my Facebook thread. It was a video showcasing what so many of us thought was a thing of the past; a man lying on the ground defeated, a victim to the police brutality. Even as he lay on the floor, two different police officers repeatedly assaulted him. Like any ordinary Facebooker, I reacted similarly to how thousands of viewers who had watched the video before me did, with an angry smiley.
Like an un-committed drug addict, Kenya continues to go back to its unsavory habits. Even with the dawn of a new constitution, we can still see how the police practically remain above the law. The question we should be asking ourselves is why those who are entrusted by the state to ensure laws are followed, partake in the exact opposite of what is legal? Various human rights bodies receive hundreds of complaints about mistreatment- but proving these allegations are difficult considering it’s the same police who would draft the statements and store the evidence. These complaints rarely lead to the punishing and dismissal of police officers for alleged brutality. It is one of the more corrupt professions, many drivers and offenders alike are simply required to pay out a bribe to avoid appearance in court. Which leads to another question, do the police only ‘protect’ the rich and neglect those without means? Bribery is key to getting off scotch free, and it’s openly expected, no beating around the bush, if you have something to offer, you’re more inclined to be on your way. Something those with less financial means can offer, causing them to bear through further hardship, at times getting jailed for more than the required 24 hours.
In this way police brutality can represent how police officers continuously take advantage of their position throughout several civil scenarios that have probably affected numerous citizens throughout the country. Maybe you have been a victim to police harassment or abuse, whether it’s being threatened with jail time, unlawful and unfair arrests, to just experiencing basic assault.
The only way we hope to fix this is through an intervention. Revised training tactics, and possibly even better pay and living conditions for police officers could result into slight change. More importantly however, harsh attitudes among officers should be reduced. Police men have tendencies to ‘look down’ on citizens, exerting abusive language and harsh tones when communicating. Professionalism needs to be conceptualized in the police force, and only then may we see a positive change.