IG Koome warns “two percent” trigger-happy officers, defends good cops.
Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome has warned cops will return fire for fire in the war against crime “because the law allows it”.
Shortly after being sworn in on November 11, 2022, Koome said police can shoot dead suspected criminals, per the sixth schedule of the National Police Service Act. He said the National Police Service will defend such officers, “who are the majority at 98 per cent”.
“Only about two per cent are bad. We are being assisted by IPOA and other oversight bodies to manage the two per cent,” he said.
What law says
The Act sets conditions in which police are allowed to use force, but only after non-violent means fail.
The force used must, however, be proportional to the objective to be achieved, the seriousness of the offence, and the resistance of the person against whom it is used. It’s only to the extent necessary while adhering to the provisions of the law.
When police use force, two things are bound to happen: injuries or death.
During injuries, the Act says, police must provide medical assistance immediately.
“Unless there are good reasons, failing to do so shall be a criminal offence,” the law says. And police are required to notify the relatives or friends of the affected about his condition.
Once police use force resulting in serious injuries or deaths, he is required to inform his superior. He will explain the circumstances that necessitated the use of force.
“The supervisor shall judge the rightfulness and decide on the next step, subject to these regulations,” the Act says.
Another report must be made to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) for investigation. IPOA is the police watchdog.
An officer who reports to IPOA needs to “secure the scene of the act for purposes of investigations and notify the next of kin, their relative or friend of the death or injury as soon as reasonably practicable.” If he fails, the officer commits a criminal offence.
Police officers have been accused of using lethal force in unjustifiable situations. Missing Voices partners have documented cases of police killings after suspects were subdued. During the 2007 post-election violence, for instance, some cops defended their actions claiming they were adhering to superior orders.
The law, however, says: “following the orders of a superior is no excuse for unlawful use of force”.
On the other hand, police can only use firearms for saving or protecting lives and properties or in self-defence against imminent threats. Or to prevent a person charged with a felony from escaping lawful custody.
Kenya is awash with cases of police, mostly wearing civilian clothes, using their firearms without identifying themselves, contrary to the law. They also don’t give clear warnings—and allow sufficient time for the observance—before pulling their triggers.
Some officers have argued that warning suspects place their lives in harm’s way, an exception allowed in law.
The law also says police must avoid firearm use, especially against children. But it’s not the case. Police shot dead 13-year-old Yasin Moyo in 2020 as he stood on a balcony in Nairobi watching cops enforcing a night-time coronavirus curfew. The suspect, police officer Duncan Ndiema, pleaded not guilty. The trial resumes in January 2023.