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Measures Ipoa takes to rein in rogue police officers

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By SUNDAY NATION REPORTER
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In this interactive series, we invite readers to send in questions to selected public figures. This week Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) Chairperson Anne Makori responds to your questions.

1. The Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) of the National Police Service, though it has always been there, has recently reinvented itself and it looks like it is performing the duties Ipoa is mandated to carry out — oversight the police. Are you concerned that the unit would render your Authority irrelevant? John Ojwando, Ahero

That is not the case. Though complementary in some instances, the two institutions have uniquely different mandates.

Though both receive complaints from members of the public and National Police Service, Section 87, 4(e), 5 and 10 of the National Police Service Act assign Ipoa oversight authority over the work of the IAU.

Further, Ipoa has specific functions including investigation of deaths and serious injuries caused by police action, conducting of inspections of police premises, monitoring of police operations affecting members of the public, reviewing of the functioning of the internal disciplinary process and reporting to the public on the police reforms progress.

Section 7 (c) of the Ipoa Act and Section 87 (5) also gives Ipoa the powers “to take over ongoing internal investigations into misconduct or failure to comply with any law if such investigations are inordinately delayed or manifestly unreasonable”.

Another fundamental difference is that Ipoa is civilian-led while the IAU is headed by police officers.

Strategically, both institutions hold quarterly meetings to upraise the referred cases and investigations.

Both institutions also undertake joint awareness creation forums to make Kenyans aware of their unique mandates.

2. Given that most of the complaints you receive are against police officers, what do you do to protect those who bring complaints considering that the officers wield guns and can harm the complainants if they discover that their jobs are on the line? Githuku Mungai, Nairobi

Internally, Ipoa has mechanisms that support anonymous lodging of complaints and also ensures that records from these complaints are confidential.

Ipoa commissioned an Electronic Complaints Management system that is password protected and only allows authorised officers to log in and access information.

Externally, Ipoa has a memorandum of understanding with the Witness Protection Agency that allows the Authority to refer witnesses and complainants whose lives are threatened for protection.

3. How do you plan to forge a meaningful working relationship with the Interior ministry and the National Police Service to ensure that your crucial mandate is never compromised? Komen Moris, Eldoret

Policing involves participation and partnership of various stakeholders including other government agencies, human rights organisations, the civil society and religious-based institutions.

Ipoa endeavours to harvest from the synergy of these institutions to ensure the National Police Service attains highest possible standards of professionalism, while at the same time ensuring operational independence envisioned in its mandate.

4. This past week, West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo was captured on camera removing police road barricades somewhere within his county, accusing the police of extortion. Do you have a mandate to investigate such cases and recommend further action against such civilians who harass and intimidate our brothers and sisters in the police service? Komen Moris, Eldoret

The Ipoa mandate excludes the authority from investigating or recommending action against civilians committing felonies. That is the work of the police.

However, Ipoa monitors police operations that affect members of the public, makes findings and recommendations for remedial action where gaps are noted.

5. What measures have you put in place to tame the rise of extrajudicial killings targeting young men especially in Kibera, Mukuru, Dandora, Kayole and Mathare slums? Joshua Mwabali, Embakasi South, Nairobi

Towards this, Ipoa established a Rapid Response Department within the Investigations Directorate to deploy officers to scenes of incidents within the shortest time possible, particularly in high-density residential areas to conduct preliminary investigations and establish culpability when the scenes are still fresh.

Ipoa also enjoys a working relationship with community-based organisations, especially those in these high-density residential areas to enable it gather information and respond whenever killings occur.

Ipoa also runs outreach programmes and has visited Kibera, Mukuru, Dandora, Kayole and Mathare to educate the members of the public, as well as police, on its mandate and benefits of peaceful coexistence. Furthermore, every killing is investigated on its own merit as dictated by the law.

6. Since Ipoa was formed more than six years ago, only a small percentage of complaints have been successfully prosecuted. Why is this so? Dan Murugu, Nakuru

Of the 10,000 complaints lodged with Ipoa, almost half of them either fell out of our mandate or did not meet the threshold to warrant further action.

Besides, 2,021 cases received have been determined and completed. Another 2,879 have been referred to relevant agencies, 6,065 are under internal attention, and 53 are before court with six convictions as of June 30, 2018.

Not all cases that are handled by Ipoa end with prosecution. Some are resolved through alternative dispute resolution at station level through Ipoa’s intervention.

In its endeavour to professionalise the National Police Service and be more impactful, Ipoa gives priority to deaths and cases of serious injuries.

Cases of a minor nature such as police misconduct are forwarded to the Internal Affairs Unit for disciplinary action.

In terms of overall impact and value for money for the taxpayer, our trend analysis reports indicate that the level of professionalism among members of the NPS has gradually improved since Ipoa’s inception.

7. Within the broad mandate of being a civilian oversight authority charged with bringing reforms in the police service, does Ipoa also look at the welfare of our police officers on issues touching on housing and working environment? Dan Murugu, Nakuru

Technically, matters of police welfare are handled by the National Police Service Commission.

However, the law has empowered Ipoa to conduct inspections of police premises, detention facilities including residential areas for police officers with the aim of seeing that NPS achieves professional standards by ensuring that officers work and live within sound and habitable housing.

In our 2016 report, Ipoa established that police housing was a crisis, characterised by shortage and deplorable conditions.

Ipoa recommended that the government should abandon provision of houses to officers and instead, allocate officers of all cadres a house allowance.

As a result of these recommendations, all police officers will from this month get commensurate house allowances.

8 What do you plan to do to advance whatever the inaugural board members achieved? Charles Wang’ombe, Dagoretti

Unlike the inaugural board, we found a working institution, with structures, offices and a professional secretariat.

Since establishment, the Ipoa has also devolved to the regions and has offices in Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, Meru, Garissa, Kakamega and a satellite office in Lodwar.

Therefore, the board can only think of results, improve stakeholder partnerships, building on the foundations established by the inaugural board to steer policing in Kenya to higher standards.

We are also working on a new strategic plan which should result in new strategies and prudent remobilisation of resources for the maximum return on our resource investment in the police oversight journey.

9. What else can be done to stem the tide of police excesses and restore trust and confidence in our police? Paul Gesimba, Nairobi

Training of police officers is a key ingredient in attaining professional standards that include respect for human rights.

Ipoa participated in designing a curriculum that aims to inculcate adherence to human rights. Regular retraining is also important to ensure there is attitudinal change among our officers.

10. How has poor funding impacted on your operations? David Mwangi, Nairobi

Investigations and oversight work is generally expensive. More financial budget allocation would naturally realise more investigations completed to the satisfaction of complainants.

However, financial resources aside, human resources are also critical if we are to turn around a faster investigation completion rate.

11. Are there avenues to register a complaint anonymously? Cynthia Nkatha, Maua

Ipoa has put in place a secure electronic system in which complainant data and case information is stored that only authorised staff can retrieve using secure passwords.

Further, insecure complainants can also lodge complaints anonymously without disclosing their names to ensure that they are safe.

In some circumstances, Ipoa also allows friends and relatives to lodge complaints on behalf of aggrieved persons.

12. Are there instances the police have stalled your investigations and how would go around such a formidable obstacle if it occurred? Stephen Oyioka, Nyamira

One of the challenges listed by the inaugural board in its End of Term report is lack of cooperation by the high-level ranks of the police.

However, the Ipoa Act gives the authority powers to summon any person and to compel the attendance of any person who fails to respond to its summons.

Recently, I met the Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet. We discussed a number of issues including cooperation without compromising our independent mandates, to ensure that members of the National Police Service are accountable to the people of Kenya.

13. What are you doing to fight corruption in the police service? Joash Omolo, Siaya

Operationally, complaints against police officers on bribery and corruption allegations fall under the mandate of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

On receipt of such complaints, the authority refers them to EACC who, together with Ipoa, belong to the referral partners working group.

That aside, to address the universal problem of arbitrary arrests to solicit for money for freedom, Ipoa is undertaking a thematic investigation with a view of finding and making possible recommendations to inform systemic institutional change within the NPS.

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