Civic duty: Police failed civility test during population census

Monday, August 26th, 2019 00:00 |
National Census. Photo/Courtesy

The kick-off of the population census at the weekend was in many ways a success. Kenyans patiently waited to fulfil their civic duty while others travelled long distances to be counted where they preferred. 

Many had to endure inconveniences, including welcoming strangers into their homes and disclosing what should be private information. There was also anxiety about security and the confidentiality of the data being collected.

But there were also hitches, criminal acts and other shortcomings. One of the glaring downsides of the census was the conduct of security officers. 

While most of the officers went about their duty of ensuring security with professionalism, there were cases of rogue officers taking advantage of the exercise to unleash terror on Kenyans, on the pretext of enforcing the law.

Video clips of officers bludgeoning hapless people ostensibly to make them go home and participate in the census left a lot to be desired about the police reforms. 

Audit police reforms

Such acts of violence on citizens is the kind of conduct that one thought the police had outgrown over years of attempts to instil discipline and professionalism in the service.

True, the police were expected to maintain law and order during the census, but not at the expense of the very law they were required to maintain. In some instances, they did the opposite. They resorted to base instincts in dealing with the public, an indiction that police reforms are cosmetic at best. 

Which is not only unfortunate but a serious indictment of the people charged with the task of executing reforms in the police service.

The unbecoming conduct of some police officers should be a wake-up call to the Interior ministry, the Kenya Police Service bosses, the National Police Service Commission and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority that we are still a long way from achieving the ideal service.

They should begin by investigating and bringing to book the individual officers who used the census as an excuse to attack Kenyans. They should also review the police reform programme to determine whether or not it’s bearing fruit.

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