INFORM, EDUCATE AND LEARN

New police spokesman vows to ‘tell it as it is, without hiding’

Bruno Shioso prefers truth to playing catchup and doing damage control

In Summary

• Childhood passion to be a cop has led to 30+ years of service, rising through the ranks

• Fake news and how quickly it spreads is a big headache, but he takes it a day at a time

New police spokesman Bruno Shioso
New police spokesman Bruno Shioso
Image: FILE

Bruno Shioso always wanted to be a cop while young. In high school, he would binge-read crime thriller books and novels, envying the exactitude and judiciousness of FBI and CIA agents. With time, his passion for being a boy in uniform only grew stronger.

From the totality of his 30 years of policing experience and his childhood passion to be a cop, Bruno believes life has prepared him for this moment, and he is ready to meet it.

But he says he is not ambitious, takes a day and a job at a time and only has 'yes sir, thank you sir' for his boss, IG Hillary Mutyambai. 

The Star sat down with the father of three for an exclusive conversation on Monday at his Jogoo House corner office as he takes over from Charles Owino, who was transferred in May to the Kenya National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

The Star: So, who is Bruno?

Bruno Shioso: My name is Bruno Isohi Shioso, a police officer and so a law enforcement agent with the National Police Service. I have a service experience spanning more than 30 years, and I have risen through the ranks. I started off as a constable but quickly jumped the ranks to become inspector straight away. I then became an OCS at the young age of 24. I later became a base commander in the Traffic department based in Siaya and Kisumu.

I have also served as a court prosecutor for two years before getting moved to CID headquarters, focusing on investigating cases of fraud and corruption. I was later moved to places like West Pokot and Gucha and other places as a DCIO before being called back to Kiganjo as a police instructor, teaching various courses.

I was later moved back to CID headquarters to serve as the personal assistant to the then director Gatiba Karanja, who died in office abruptly in 2010, as well as his successor Ndegwa Muhoro. I served Muhoro for more than six years.

I then went to Central Bank of Kenya as the deputy director of banking fraud investigations before later moving to Lamu county as County Criminal Investigations Officer (CCIO). I then went to the US, where I joined the UN on secondment as a team leader in the area of organised transnational crimes. It was a fixed contract of a three-year job. I then came back and landed this job, in which I’m one month old.

Q: Did you ever want to be a police officer growing up?

A: That’s why I am one. That’s the only thing I ever wanted to become. By Form 2, my mind was already made that I wanted to become a police officer. Before then, I was toying with very different ideas on what I wanted to become: a lawyer, banker, professor or some form of teaching in a college, a journalist like yourself.

But in high school, I would read novel series on crime and I got impressed by characters who played the role of a police detective attached to the FBI and the CIA, and I would tell my friends that I want to be an FBI or CIA agent. I loved the series so much so that in two years, I had munched the whole series of close to 70 books.

It was clear to me the professional path I wanted to take. I had a great interest in investigating things and solving issues. In fact, my peers used to call me sergeant, shortened as ‘saj’. I used to tell them I want to become an FBI agent but they’d remind me that in Kenya, I’d be a CID agent, hence become a cop.

But the funny thing, all these other careers I wanted to be in, I have achieved them through policing. I wanted to be a professor or lecture; I taught in Kiganjo. I wanted to be a lawyer; I worked as a prosecutor for two years and had to study law and argued with these top lawyers. I wanted to be a banker, I served as a deputy director in financial crimes investigation at CBK. And I wanted to be a journalist; now I’m serving as the official spokesman of the police, dealing with journalists and the media.

If an incident happens, even if it's deemed negative towards the service, we will say it as it is to the public. This will help earn public confidence and trust
Bruno Shioso

Q: Most people’s attitude towards the police is negative, viewing them as those who didn’t do well in class. Did that discourage you?

A: It didn’t. I used to look at the bigger picture, what you call the utility. See, there is that principle of utilitarianism, which is [producing] the greatest good for the greatest number of people, and I believe that can only come from the police. This is because societal problems, believe it or not, become the problem of the police, at some point.

For me, I can only become of service to the greatest number of people if am a police officer, especially if I take my oath and honour it. This is a noble profession and nothing could dissuade me from pursuing it. All those stereotypes and bad happenings, even among police officers, because they are humans, are there, but nothing could dim my passion.

Q: One month into the spokesman job, how has it been?

A: It's tough. First of all, I just came in and I’m not a trained journalist. But you see, us in police, any job you’re given, you take it and complain later. When the IG gives you a job, you say, ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘Thank you, sir.’ I love challenges. I picked the job as a challenge because I didn’t see it coming but I’m trying to do my best to support the IG, the service and serve Kenyans. It is tough but I’m gelling very well and I’m getting all the support I need, especially from the IG and my colleagues, the media and members of the public. I’m just looking at the future and what contribution I can make as the director of communication to make the service better.

Q: What challenges have you encountered so far in this work?

A: I wouldn’t really say much, but the fast pace with which information moves has been a challenge, especially when it is false or distorted information. You cannot manage it. Objectivity of the tellers of the news stories is also a challenge. I’m truly pained to see that the true information is getting distorted into a false narrative, and it moves faster, so we have to play catch up. Like the Laikipia case, where a news outlet said a school has been torched yet I was in Laikipia myself and knew it to be false. It is really sad that we have to do damage control.

Q: What’s your agenda or objective for as long as you are in this office? Also tie it with what you’d do differently from your predecessors.

A: Let me start with the second part because this office had very seasoned spokespersons before me, and I’ll tell you they have done a great job. I have been a consumer of their job. Erick Kiraithe and Charles Owino —sharp and meticulous people — are the latest, and their work has left a great impact. I would not say that I want to do anything different from them, but I want to build on their legacy.

As regards my agenda, I want to be that guy who will build a team to support the IG in communication matters, and not to play catchup and do damage control. My motto, which also forms part of my strategy, is, “Inform, educate and learn.”

We want to ensure the public is promptly and factually informed, devoid of propaganda. If it has happened, it has happened and we have to tell it as it is without hiding. I also want to operate an open-door policy, such that if you have any issues, just walk in and get clarification.

Q: How do you intend to deal with negative publicity coming police’s way, say about extrajudicial killings, abductions and enforced disappearances, as well as instances where officers engage in crime?

A: We will inform, educate and learn. We will operate a transparent system so that if an incident happens, even if it's deemed negative towards the service, we say it to members of the public. Saying it as it is will help earn public confidence and trust. We will also update members of the public promptly on what action has been taken and the status.

But equally important is educating the public on the workings of police accountability in this country. If an officer did a mistake in the course of work, which is normal because we are humans, then the circumstances will be investigated and corrections made. But if it is a criminal issue, then relevant entities, such as the Independent Police Oversight Authority, IG’s Internal Affairs Unit, the DPP and others will take action. What we will not allow is the blanket bastardising of the whole service for the mistakes of a few.

Q: What strategy do you have to improve the police-media relationship?

A: Journalists form a crucial part of our work. We are actually a part of you. We will operate an open-door policy, as I have said. You need to look at us as sharing the same space, serving the public. I want to engage and talk to you and get feedback. We need to form a productive relationship where we learn from each other. But the media needs to decide whether they’ll be pursuing profit or the truth. If it is the truth, then we are there to partner. But if it is profit, then we shall have lost the plot. But all in all, any journalist should be free to call and inquire and I’m available for any of it.

Q: How do you deal with a situation where a senior official in government, and who is your boss, attacks the police service and the IG, yet they benefit from the services of the very police?

A: We have no issue with that. Our focus and that of the IG is service to the people and that is why you rarely see the IG respond to them. As you know, regarding the recent issues, the statement by Interior CS Fred Matiang’i in Parliament elaborately addressed the factual situation.

Q: But given the trends, especially in a politically charged environment, is the police partisan or doing political assignments?

A: No, we are not partisan at all. The IG has independent command of the service and we keep our work professional. The CS has been consistent in dealing with those allegations and as you saw, his presentation in Parliament laid the matter firmly to rest.

We are not partisan in any way, and that is why you see there are investigations of police officers while others are in court, because a criminal is a criminal. But those who make errors in the course of duty, we support them to correct the mistakes and move on. But the good thing anyway is that the service of today is not the service of yesterday. There are multiple structures for holding officers accountable, like Ipoa and IG’s own Internal Affairs Unit. There are also outside mechanisms for oversighting the police, including the office of the DPP and even the National Assembly’s Committee on National Security. People can even go to court directly and cite us.

Q: Comment about the rising cases of abductions and enforced disappearances, including the recent one in which Muslim scholar and cleric Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad was taken in broad daylight in Nairobi.

A: We encourage anybody with any information to volunteer it to the police. You see there is no way the police, which is investigating to solve the issue, can be the problem. We are part of the solution. Governments all over the world are taking serious focus on organised transnational crimes and terrorism, and ATPU officers are doing their job professionally. We only need to support them, not bring them down.

Q: What does the future hold for you? Are you an ambitious person?

A: No. I just do my job, like the one I have right now, and that's it. When you're given a job, just do your job. I don't worry about my tomorrow. I just do my job to the best of my ability and to the best satisfaction of members of the public. If I can satisfy the public's expectations, then I will sleep well. 

Edited by T Jalio