Cases of police abuse of power on the rise, says Ipoa

Public confidence in the police is on a downward spiral

In Summary

• The survey cites increasing cases of police involvement in fraud, brutality, torture and falsification of crime for extortion purposes.

• Interior CS Matiang'i urged the public and civil society to support the officers "as they always run towards danger when everybody flees from it"

Interior CS Fred Matiang'i launching the survey yesterday, November 6, 2019 at KICC, Nairobi. /WILFRED NYANGERESI

Incidents of police abuse of power have risen by 15.8 per cent from 30.4 per cent in 2013, an Ipoa-commissioned survey shows. 

The Endline Household-Level Survey conducted between January and April by Strategic Africa cites police involvement in fraud, brutality, torture and falsification of crime for extortion purposes. 

The current percentage is 46.7 per cent, meaning nearly half of the respondents have been victims of at least one form of police abuse. 

The survey also accuses officers of engaging in sexual coercion and assault and is a poor show of the progress in reforming the service, given the billions pumped in the project to make the service more accountable. 

A quarter of the respondents said officers had solicited bribes from them while 15.1 per cent had been threatened with arrest for non-existent offences.

The study exposes a general feeling that police officers will use excessive force, misuse their firearms, arrest and beat people to show authority and power. 

"This finding was corroborated by key informants' data which revealed perceptions that the police regularly use excessive force, misuse firearms, falsely accuse individuals of offences with the aim of extorting them and collude with gangs to steal or terrorise the civilians." 

The study reports that public confidence in the police is on a downward trend with a paltry 28 per cent of those sampled saying they can report a case of police abuse if they experience or witness it. This is a drop from 30 per cent in 2013.

Most of the respondents argued that they would not report such cases as no action will be taken. Another 20.5 per cent this year compared to 16.6 per cent in 2013 said they did not report because they were not aware of where to report. 

"This finding was corroborated by the discussions with participants in group discussions who said fear of harassment by the police made them dread reporting any case or complain against members of the force," the report explains. 

Overall, the report shows that more than half of the respondents (54.2 per cent) believe the police are discharging their duties effectively.

The figure was 62 per cent in a similar survey in 2013. 

Impediment to policing

The survey shows that 66.2 per cent of participating officers singled out low pay, tanking morale as well as limited incentives as the major impediments to their work. The figure has increased from 54.6 per cent in the 2013 survey. 

"Notably, there is an increase in the percentage of officers concerned with police housing (6.9% in 2013 and 57.3% in 2019), lack of resources to effectively fight crime (23.9% in 2013 and 39.8% in 2019), corruption (3.0% in 2013 and 18.7% in 2019), lack of ICT infrastructure and linkages (1.6% in 2013 and 14.9% in 2019) among other issues," the report says.

The study targeted the public, police, prosecutors, court clerks, judiciary, development partners, governmental and non-governmental organisations.

The study consisted of a household survey in 36 counties covering 5,961 households, and a survey of 450 police officers in selected police stations in 31 counties.

At the launch of Ipoa's strategic plan yesterday, Interior CS Fred Matiang'i decried "an overly unnecessary negative attitude towards police officers."

Matiang'i said that while the government encouraged accountable policing, the public and civil society groups should support the officers "as they always run towards danger when everybody flees from it."