• The personnel from the team are usually picked from stations’ general duty personnel, DCI and General Service Unit.
• With its special training, the squad is said to have silenced terror gangs by either killing them or forcing them into exile.
For the longest time, the disbanded Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI’s) Special Service Unit (SSU) had been a team that was relied on to solve complicated crimes.
They were relied on to respond to any murder incident involving violent criminals on the run or unsolved issues and even terrorism.
It was a revamped team from an earlier one that was referred to as Special Crimes Prevention Unit (SCPU), which was reorganized in 2019 by former DCI George Kinoti.
Most officers now serving in the disbanded unit had served in SCPU and the defunct Flying Squad for years.
They were mainly involved in quelling the Mungiki menace from 2007 until 2019 when they were reorganized.
In this period, up to 300 people believed to have been members of the banned group disappeared or died mysteriously in shootings or were found dead on roads and thickets.
“These are crack units that are relied on to deal with some of the complicated issues that are a thorn to governments,” said one of the officers who served there.
And the move to disband SSU did not come as a surprise to many. They anticipated it after the new government took over.
“It happens and we anticipate more actions,” added one officer.
The team was involved in among others, solving the macabre murder of Catholic priest Fr Michael Kyengo in Embu in 2020 in a ritual that was meant to enable the killers to be promoted or recognised in a cult.
The death of Ferdinand Ongeri, who was the Kenya National Union of Nurses Kisumu branch deputy secretary general the same year, was also linked to cultism.
Ongeri’s body was found in a forest in Nandi long after he had been reported missing.
In 2012, the team backed up others in seizing six suicide bomber vests, 12 grenades and four AK-47s with more than a dozen loaded magazines from a house in Eastleigh that were meant to be used in a terror attack in Nairobi.
Officials said then they thwarted a major planned terror attack.
The unit has also solved dozens of violent murders and robberies in the country after they were sent there by their bosses.
“They are a standby team to act on some of these incidents in any part of the country. They can even fly to the scene depending on the nature of the incident,” added another official.
The official praised their work so far and argued lack of proper management and control can lead to chaos within.
With its special training, the squad is said to have silenced terror gangs by either killing them or forcing them into exile.
The personnel from the team are usually picked from stations’ general duty personnel, DCI and General Service Unit.
They are usually taken to be elite because of the nature of their work.
They also handle fraud, drug-related cases, terror-related incidents where they are called as backup teams and other forms of crime.
SSU officers were also mainly used to carry out special duties such as raids.
The DCI is seen as the backbone of the police and at times employs different methods to deal with a specific issue.
Other special units under DCI include Cyber Crime Unit, Sting Squad Headquarters (SSH), Crime Research and Intelligence Bureau (CRIB) which is for intelligence-driven operations, Ballistics, Scenes of Crime, Principal Crime Registrar, Crime Intelligence Unit and Homicide’s DNA, Toxicological, Chemistry and Biology Lab Units.
Police officers attached to crack units stand out in comparison to colleagues from regular duty. For instance, they dress in plain clothes and ride in unmarked cars, which are at times fitted with foreign registration number plates.
And while police officers on regular duty are required to maintain a clean shave, those in the crack units often sport baggy trousers, trendy T-shirts, dreadlocked hair and long beards just in case they have to go undercover.
In most cases, the unit officers do not appear in court to give evidence since most of their missions are like those of hit squads.
In a majority of the cases, they are not sent to make arrests because their missions involve the exchange of fire that often ends in the deaths of suspects.
The disappearance of two Indians and their driver on July 24, 2022, seems to have led to action on SSU.
On Saturday, all officers at the SSU were disarmed and recalled to DCI Headquarters for further instructions.
They are now under probe over the issue.
There have been suspicions that police are involved in the deaths and human rights activists have demanded an investigation.
President William Ruto said he gave the go-ahead for the move. He said the unit had been linked to extra-judicial killings signalling there are more changes coming.
“Mimi mwenyere niliamuru kuvunjwa kwa hicho kikosi sijui Special what (I ordered the disbandment of the unit). Our people were being found murdered and their bodies dumped in River Yala and other places. That is the sort of history we want to forget as a nation,” the President said.
The main functions of the DCI include collection and provision of criminal intelligence, investigations on serious crimes including homicides, narcotics, money laundering and economic crimes, maintaining of law and order and detection and prevention of crime.
They also apprehend offenders, maintain criminal records, coordinate country Interpol Affairs, and carry out investigations of matters that may be referred to it by the Independent Police Oversight Authority.