I write with a heavy heart, having been unjustly arrested, intimidated and extorted by a team of around five plainclothes ‘policemen’ and one ‘policewoman’ in Westlands recently.
The incident occurred at 3am while some friends and I were walking from one bar to another. We had had a few drinks but were by no means disorderly. Out of nowhere a police pickup pulled up next to us. Without warning the ‘officers’ rushed out of the car and immediately became aggressive, grabbed us violently and began saying we were disorderly, had resisted arrest and were roaming the streets under a curfew.
We had never come across these ‘officers’ before and had never exchanged a single word with them. Neither had we been informed of any curfew. Indeed, there were plenty of other people walking around at the time. We became suspicious and asked for their names and badge numbers. They refused to give us either.
They then began manhandling and handcuffing us violently. We were physically lifted and thrown into the back of the pickup without any regard for our well-being. We were unable to read their badge numbers as they were all in plainclothes. Neither could we take any photos or record any conversation as we were handcuffed.
Suffice it to say, I am not Kenyan. My girlfriend and neighbour, who were both with me at the time, are Kenyan. They were both physically treated worse than me, perhaps because they are black and I am white, and feel sore to this day.
On arrival at Parklands police station we were dragged inside where four or five policemen and woman were slumped over the counter and barely raised an eyebrow at our complaints of the way we were being treated. Still, no justified charge had been given. Inside the station the atmosphere was terrifying as we quickly realised that all the ‘officers’ were in cahoots.
The fear factor was compounded by a few female prisoners who were banging on the cell doors begging to be released. A series of theatrics followed as the ‘officers’ went about pretending to process us for incarceration. My black friends were largely ignored at this point as I had clearly been singled out as the one who could pay for our release.
Still, in 2018, there is a pervasive and ugly misconception that non-Kenyans have all the wealth and are easy targets for extortion by the authorities. I cannot count how many times I have been singled out for ‘chai’ or extorted over the threat of arrest for innocent mistakes such as making a wrong turn while driving despite their being no clear signage for the motorist. The failures and inadequacies of the state are being abused by corrupt police officers to extort the general public.
Back to that night. My ID was taken from me and one of the officers went about booking us while looking back at me and audibly telling me that we would be locked up unless I paid for our release. I detest corruption and avoid it wherever possible. But faced with further abuse and totally unjust incarceration, and reading the fear in my girlfriend’s face that she might be sexually molested if we stayed any longer, I accepted to pay a bribe.
At this point I was moved down a corridor and told to remove my wallet from my pocket. I was then cleaned out of all cash that I had on me. We were then free to go. The ‘officers’ who had filled their pockets with my money now wanted us out of their sight.
We feel violated. We feel angry. We resent paying taxes to a government that allows this to happen. While the fight against graft is splashed across the newspapers, after an experience like that, it is hard to believe that enough is being done.
We have not filed an official complaint. We all remember what happened to Willy Kimani, his client and their driver in 2016 following a complaint filed through Ipoa.
Those ‘officers’ in Parklands police station need to be dealt with. No doubt some of them take their job seriously but that does not include the ones that attacked us that night.
Surely someone cares, someone who is their superior, and who can challenge them.