• Police surgeon Zephaniah Kamau is often overwhelmed by the many patients
• Successful prosecution of assault cases requires indisputable clinical evidence
Though police surgeon Zephania Kamau is an extremely busy man, his antenna is always up.
"My report recorded on the P3 form plays a big role in the success of a case and justice," the 61-year-old told the Star in his office.
The eight-minute interview was interrupted four times; twice by a patient who wanted his P3 form signed, once by his assistant, and again by an officer who brought in more forms to be signed.
“Beware of the time, I don’t want to be late for court,” he warned the officer as she placed the forms on his table.
Kamau, the only police surgeon in the country, sits on the first floor at the Nairobi Area Police Station, tucked between the imposing skyscrapers of Upper Hill.
Though he wears two hats as a police commissioner and as a surgeon, he does medical work and rarely police work.
In other counties, there are doctors who are not police officers but are stationed in the police stations.
The doctor continued to examine his patient, a victim of assault who sustained visible eye, shoulder and hand injuries as we resolved to finish the interview on phone.
Stephen Maina, 36, is lucky to have been attended to by the doctor after he was physically assaulted in his house by a neighbour.
"He punched me in the eye and I also suffered injuries on the chest, shoulder and hands," Maina explained as the doctor examined his wounds.
Outside his office, men and women waiting to be attended to queued. Some had been there the previous day but asked to come back because they were too far in the line.
My report recorded on the P3 form plays a big role in the success of a case and justiceZephania Kamau
DECADES ON THE JOB
For 31 years, the medical doctor and trained police officer has been conducting medical examinations on victims of physical and sexual assault as well as road and occupational accidents, and signing their p3 forms.
Every day, Kamau divides his time between the office, where he attends to at least 100 people, and the courts, where he goes to testify in cases.
“I am always working. Some days I work into the night, some days I spend my day from one court to the other,” he said.
There are days when he comes in, counts the number of people he can attend to, and asks the remaining to come the next day.
“We deal with cold cases. In other words, they are not emergencies, so when I have court cases that start early, I select the first people whom I can attend to and ask the rest to come back the next day,” he said.
“Milimani has 12 courts, Makadara 11. There is Kibera, Jomo Kenyatta and City Hall. Moving from one court to another to testify can be really tedious,” he said.
His day begins at 5.30am daily, when he wakes up to prepare for work. Even though he is a government employee, his job is not a typical 8-5 day job like civil servants.
“It is overwhelming but I give it my best. It was worse 20 years ago before I got an assistant,” he said.
For more than 20 years, the police doctor served Nairobi, Kiambu, Machakos and Kajiado counties alone before the Ministry of Health posted an assistant to the office.
Things have eased up a lot, Kamau said, but the department could still use more hands.
SPREADING THE BURDEN
The Nairobi government in 2019 gave powers to medical and clinical officers to treat assault cases and fill P3 forms after deliberating with health teams.
The then-Governor Mike Sonko said the move is aimed at giving timely justice, especially to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) victims.
Doctors have previously shied away from signing the documents, fearing the inconvenience of turning up in court to testify.
The logistics of travelling to far-flung places means doctors are likely to skip testifying in such cases, thus denying victims justice.
Charles Kosgei, the deputy police spokesperson, blamed the delay in obtaining the document on understaffing in the police service.
In May last year, the United Nations warned over the rise of rape and domestic violence cases during the coronavirus lockdown. The UN called it a “shadow pandemic”.
The largest number of cases the police surgeon's office handles are physical assault cases, which are between 90 and 120 every day.
“Apart from that, we also attend to between 20 to 30 patients from petty road accidents daily, at least a case of defilement and rape every week and male sexual abuse once every month,” he said.
JOURNEY TO POST
Kamau was born in 1960 and after passing his A levels, he joined the University of Nairobi to pursue a degree in medicine and surgery.
He was posted to work for the government at the Ministry of Health, but his passion for joining the armed forces pushed him to train as a police officer.
“I worked for a while and in 1989, I decided to join the police. I was trained then posted as a police doctor here in 1990,” he said.
What defines success for the police doctor is when justice is served, but that does not always happen due to a lack of information by the public.
“On Monday, a lady who was sexually assaulted in 2018 came to have a P3 form signed. Even though he was examined by a doctor, three years is such a long time. The attending doctor could have been transferred or dead, and small undocumented details of the case forgotten,” he said.
“Every second count is rape or defilement. The prosecution is left with the hard task of breaking a case where the exhibit is tampered with or delayed.”
He encouraged victims of sexual assault to report to a hospital as soon as possible before reporting the matter to the police station.
“At the station, nothing happens. Time-lapse means a lot for the success of a case, especially sexually related. Within 72 hours, evidence could get lost,” he said.
Kamau said he creates time for his family when he is off duty and has inspired three of his children to follow in his steps.
“I spend time with my family and friends when not working. Three of my children are in my field of work; one is a doctor, another a police officer and another a forensic expert,” he said.