OPINION

BY FM

IPOA Was Never An Afterthought – Let’s Nurture, Protect It At All Cost.

Before 2012, wrongs committed by police officers and they are many –  killings, inaction, torture, abuse of rights, arbitrary arrests, illegal detention, trumped up charges, frivolous  investigations  –  among others, were internally investigated by police themselves.

Consequently, many errant police officers went scot free because their colleagues often shielded them, and helped them to evade justice.

It translates to a classic case of a perpetrator prosecuting himself, defending himself, making his own findings after the trial and finally passing judgement on himself.

Against this backdrop, the idea of having an independent body responsible for the oversight of the Kenyan police was mooted; that was about 22 years ago.

Like an idea whose time has come, calls for policing oversight only grew louder over time.

The idea finally reached home after the 2007-2008 post-election violence – but after 1,300 people were killed in the mayhem, a significant number of them felled by police bullets, and others because of police inaction to protect lives.

The Waki Commission on the postelection violence unearthed the damning findings on the role played police in the havoc and as a result, there was basis for creating the Police Reforms Taskforce headed by Justice Philip Ransley.

Better known as the Justice Ransley taskforce, it made 200 recommendations on how best to transform a brutal police Force into a Service that while enforcing law and order, has the best interest of Kenyans in mind and at heart.

One of the recommendations was to create a police oversight body comprising of civilians only.

This gave birth to the formation of yet another team; Police Reforms and Implementation Committee (PRIC) with the task of ensuring that the 200-recommendation report did not gather dust on the shelves of government stores, but is implemented to the letter.

One of its products was the Independent Policing Oversight Authority Act, which was enacted by parliament with the intention of giving life to Article 244 of the 2010 Constitution, the provision that demands the National Police Service should be transparent and accountable to the members of the public.

The writers of that law appreciated the gravity of the matter they were handling and with deep understanding of its consequences, they delivered a piece of legislation that should only be touched if the intention is only to make it more potent.

It is through this law, written with the participation of the general public, that on May 22, 2012, Kenya delivered IPOA, one of the babies conceived after the Constitution was promulgated on August 27, 2010.

Kenyans of all walks of life should guard this baby at all costs because there have been not one, but several attempts before, to snuff some life out of it.

Had they been successful, that baby’s growth would have been stunted at infancy.

Their attempts targeted for repeal, sections of the IPOA Act, in particular the one which gives its chairperson and Board members a security of tenure.

The law as it is now, only allows the removal of an IPOA board member after a painstaking and rigorous process, that involves due examination by the Public Service Commission and the National Assembly, and thereafter a tribunal headed by a senior Judge is formed to investigate the targeted member.

Those who wanted this provision scrapped, had in mind that board members should be removed at the whim of the Government of the day.

Such a move would have watered down the objectivity of the agency and the word “Independent” would just be reduced to being ornamental, hoodwinking and a mockery of the greater public good.