Last week, the Star ran a special report on IPOA’s six years in office, in which the authority was criticised as ‘unresponsive’ and ‘lacking courage’ after securing only four convictions out of 9,000 cases. In this article by Tom Kagwe, the board, whose term expires next week, responds.
Establishing an institution from scratch is a herculean task, which not only requires dedication to duty, but also a lot of wisdom and tact. After the swearing-in of the inaugural Board that governs the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), the members embarked on such an assignment. Looking back, this has been the treacherous journey towards what IPOA is currently.
Understanding IPOA’s Mandate
IPOA was set up to do a number of mandates; not just to investigate police misconduct arising from complaints. Definitely, IPOA received an avalanche of the complaints, half of which never related to its mandate. Since inception, over 9,850 complaints have been received. About 5,500 of those complaints were processed within IPOA, while the others were dispatched to the respective institutions to deal with as per their mandate.
Illustratively, with regard to conclusion of investigations, IPOA concluded about 3,000 cases in which after assessment, about 1000 were dealt with within IPOA, while the others were forwarded to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Kenya National Commission for Human Rights (KNCHR), the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI), the police Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) and also the National Police Service Commission (NPSC), among others.
As the Board leaves office, 3 former cops are in jail: Titus Musila; Veronicah Gitahi; and, Isaa Mzee. These three were investigated, prosecuted and convicted for gross human rights violations, which ended up with 2 deaths; one in Kwale and the other in Nairobi. Those families, whose members were killed, have stories to tell about whether IPOA has worked or not. On this one, your guess is as good as mine.
The above convictions demonstrate that the two persons were extra-judicially executed. Extra-Judicial Executions (EJEs) is a phrase widely used within civil society, but strictly, only courts of law can classify or categorize what is alleged as EJEs as so. Many reports have been written in the last six years. These reports allege that police were involved in EJEs.
In these six years, IPOA has received numerous reports from both State and non-State actors relating to EJEs. Without doubt, many violations have been documented. Unfortunately, most of these reports have not proven worthwhile in terms of evidentiary value or threshold that is required for investigating and/or prosecuting murder or manslaughter upon which allegations of EJEs are based.
Investigating and prosecuting murder or manslaughter requires a higher threshold of evidence. It also requires that evidence to be collected within the parameters set out in law. It is difficult for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) to set out a prosecution of this nature. It is doubly so for IPOA to investigate alleged EJEs, unless they occurred in a timeframe, which has not lapsed for long.
Many stakeholders, whether the police or public, should also support these processes of investigations and prosecution throughout is the case is to be fully investigated and prosecuted. Police have proved to be unreliable and so are the members of public fearing reprisals from the police who are not trusted by the public. In reflection, in the last ten years, from 2008, police have not investigated, prosecuted or convicted any police officer within their ranks, for any human rights violations.
IPOA also monitors policing operations that affect members of the public. In the period under review, over 150 operations were monitored and recommendations made. 60 of these operations were about public order management, of which many investigations were opened, concluded and courts cases are ongoing.
IPOA receives complaints from both the police and the public, but also acts on its motion to investigate acts, which border on police misconduct. Indeed, as the Board leaves office, 63 cases based on investigations are ongoing, majority of them being deaths and serious injuries to persons, by the police. IPOA further carries out research on many areas, which affect the trends and pattern of police misconduct and those are documented throughout the six years.
Further, IPOA has made numerous recommendations of serious nature that have improved policing overtime. These include the matters surrounding police housing, leasing police motor vehicles, and police deployment particularly the use of police as bodyguards of VIPs, among others. Most of these have been implemented under the leadership of the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government. All these are part and parcel of IPOA’s achievements.
Moreover, through inspections of police premises and detention facilities, which is within IPOA’s mandate, a lot of strides have been recorded all over the country: in police stations; in police posts; and also among police camps. Over 880 inspections and re-inspections were conducted, with varying recommendations.
Most police commanders at those levels, can attest to the fact that IPOA has radicalized how they view their work, has enabled them to proactively deal with managing those premises, and also implement IPOA’s recommendations.
Of all the complaints received, since inception, about 1,700 complaints were processed and closed for lack of sufficient or credible information. Some of these were also caused by complainants withdrawing the cases. From the above statistics, of about 9,850 complaints, about 5,000 were unrelated to IPOA’s mandate.
Looking back at those six years, the Board set out to ensure that complainants are fully informed of their matters. But this became IPOA’s waterloo. Processing 9,000 complaints, with 140 staff, without technology was a difficult task. Feedback has been wanting. That is a fact.
However, with the new Electronic Content Management (ECM) system, based on Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), there is marked improvement.
IPOA’s feedback is currently based on this system. Giving feedback was taking over one month. Now it has been reduced to one day. At a click of a button, any officer at IPOA could give feedback to a client on the spot, in terms of where the complaint is, or has been referred to; if it does or does not fall within IPOA’s mandate.
Decentralising IPOA for Access
The complaints and feedback processing is not a Nairobi-based affair. IPOA has opened nine offices in its bid to decentralize its services in accordance with the Constitution and its constitutive Act. It is mandatory to do so; to enable access to its services by the public and the police.
The Counties’ offices are in: Kisumu, Mombasa, Garissa, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, Nakuru, Meru, Nyeri and Turkana. The Board, as it leaves, has opened these offices, which are ‘regional’ in nature as they serve the whole country; not just those residing in the Counties.
No institution in Kenya, ever established since independence, can equal this accomplishment in six years. Indeed, noting this fete, the Board exits as having done its job: that of establishing IPOA headquarters in Nairobi and decentralizing the institution as per the constitutional requirements.
International Best Practice
Comparatively, IPOA is currently the best international practice. Indeed, no institution in the world, has achieved what IPOA has achieved in six years. For example, in South Africa, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), was set up and started functioning and decentralizing after more than six years, but had been preceded by the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD). Unlike IPID, IPOA was started from scratch.
Further, in New Zealand, it took more than 15 years to set up the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) to commence its work. In England and Wales, it took at least ten years even before one cop was investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which was formerly the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). In Northern Ireland, the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (OPONI), it took more than a decade for anyone to be investigated and jailed.
Indeed, to prove the point, IPOA has been consulted by Nigeria, Somalia, Tanzania, Lesotho, Indonesia, Netherlands, Morocco, Egypt and many other countries on how they could set up their civilian oversight mechanisms and ensure police are held to account. IPOA is international best practice.
Looking back, IPOA’s Board has done what is humanely possible under difficult circumstances, with very high public expectations, and noting it was troubled from the very beginning with legislative onslaughts on its independence. IPOA was not set up in vain, and its existence is joyous to many people, including the police. From the commencement of full operations, after recruitment of staff, in mid-2014, IPOA has indeed worked for only 3 and a ½ years, not six.
Be that as it may, with tact, wisdom, patience, and veracity, the Board as the governing organ of the institution has done its work. It is up to other institutions within the criminal justice system, with support from the public and police, to do their part. IPOA’s record is indeed unparalleled.
Indeed, IPOA’s achievements are crowned by the public having received two spectacular awards: first the FIRE award, for being frugal and efficient in spending public resources without qualified accounts; and second, the Huduma Award by the public, for being the best public institution in the country in terms of services’ delivery to the public.
Tom Kagwe, J.P. is a Board Member of the IPOA. The views contained herein reflect those of the Board and the Authority