INSECURITY MATTERS

Fake and real cops: What's the difference?

In Summary

• Police themselves have become bad examples and are setting the trend for thugs and tricksters

• So should motorists stop when flagged down by police in an abandoned stretch of a highway?

This week, Kenyans heard from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations of five traffic police impostors who had set up a roadblock on Machakos-Kitui road to harass and fleece motorists.

Upon being accosted by detectives and realising that their cover had been blown, it is reported that they began shooting at the officers. There was an exchange of fire and in the process three of the alleged impostors were fatally shot and the other two escaped.

Among other items, police uniform was recovered at the scene. A victim was rescued after he had earlier been forced by the imposters into a waiting vehicle which bore private number plates.

This incident has raised not only more questions than answers but also lots of concerns amongst Kenyans. To begin with, so who were these guys? With three currently lying dead in the mortuary and two having escaped, will we ever know their real identities?

Were they thugs as claimed by the DCI or could they have been disguised officers who chose to go down rather than be humiliated for mounting an illegal traffic checkpoint? If these guys were not officers, then where did they get the uniforms? How come other local traffic and regular police officers did not notice them and it had to take the intervention of detectives to burst their cover? If they were fake, shouldn’t the local officials have noticed them first?

But perhaps the most important question to ask and the biggest concern presently is how do Kenyans tell who is a fake and who is a real police officer? Is it possible that presently there may be many other police impostors out there?

On a busy highway such as Mombasa Road, after every 50 or so kilometres there is a checkpoint where police’s main business is to collect bribes from truck drivers. On Nyali Bridge in Mombasa county, the police check is merely a corruption cash cow. This daylight robbery is done in plain sight and the authorities, including the top bosses, are aware of it

Kenyans will recall just over week ago, President Uhuru informed Kenyans that NIIMS had identified over 5,000 ghost officers who were costing Kenyans Sh148 million a month, which translated to 1.8 billion a year. Specifically for the police service, the President said it identified 1,447 ghost officers who existed only on paper. The President’s statement, coupled with the incident of the fake traffic police officers, basically confirm that Kenyans are at risk of being served by fake police officers.

If the police can be infiltrated yet it is the main national security agency that is actually supposed to detect and arrest impostors, then how many other impostors do we have serving in the public service presently? Is the doctor or nurse serving in that rural health centre genuine or is he/she an impostor?

Is the assistant chief of a sub-location in northern Kenya legitimate or fake? Is the surveyor working in the Ministry of Lands in south-west Kenya genuine or merely posing as one? It will now be hard for Kenyans to merely trust just any official who comes up to them as a government employee since it is confirmed and evident that impostors have permeated state agencies and are busy hoodwinking the public

Back to the police, on a busy highway such as Mombasa Road, after every 50 or so kilometres there is a checkpoint where police’s main business is to collect bribes from truck drivers. On Nyali Bridge in Mombasa county, the police check is merely a corruption cash cow. The worrying fact is that this daylight robbery is done in plain sight and the authorities, including the top bosses, are aware of it.

So since impostors know this is the modus operandi of Kenya's police, they emulate them to equally make money. Police themselves have become bad examples and are setting the trend for thugs and tricksters. Although they are called impostors, their net effect and that of regular police is the same—to steal from innocent, hard-working taxpayers.

So should motorists stop when flagged down by police in an abandoned stretch of a highway? How do we tell real from fake officers? This is an immediate and pressing challenge for the new Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai. Kenyans need to feel they are safe and protected. We are waiting with bated breath to see what action the IG will take on this matter.