How police cover each other in crime

Tuesday, October 5th, 2021 00:00 |
Former Mukuyuni police boss Henry Mutunga when he appeared before a Makueni court last week. Photo/COURTESY

The conviction of two senior police officers in two separate criminal cases in the last one week has exposed the lengths officers go to cover up crimes, especially by their colleagues.

Former Mukuyuni Police Station Officer Commanding Station (OCS) Henry Mutunga and former Inspector Dickson Okoyo Ndemo were convicted by Makueni and Makadara courts respectively in rulings that brought to the fore the extent to which officers go to distort incriminating information about their colleagues, tamper with exhibits, and even charge wrong suspects.

The investigation of both cases were taken over by the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) after complaints were raised over the manner detectives were handling them.

This conduct by police officers when handling cases especially those against their colleagues, commonly referred to as the blue code of silence, has been cited in various reports by various agencies and decisions by courts.

In Criminal Appeal No. 124 of 2018, Titus Ngamau Musila alias Katitu –vs- Republic, the High Court said: “The blue code of silence is a common phenomenon spanning across different countries and police cultures…

It is the unwritten rule according to which police officers never provide incriminating information about their colleagues.”

Musila was a police officer who had been charged and convicted of murder.

In the case of Mukuyuni police station in Ukia, Makueni county where the OCS was on Friday sentenced to two years’ in jail and ordered to pay a fine of Sh200,000, the court heard that the officer after receiving a bribe to release a suspect, arrested his kin and charged him in court with being in possession of bhang and also stealing a motorcycle from the police station yard.

Officers from Mukuyuni had on September 13 last year at around 8pm arrested Joseph Kioko as he was riding home together with his brother Jeremiah Mwendo.

Recorded conversation 

The officers took away the bike and the following day, Kioko went to the station and was informed his brother  had been taken to court for impersonation.

The OCS then told him to give Sh5,000 so that the motorcycle could be released, prompting him to report the matter to Makueni EACC offices.

EACC detectives gave him a recording device and he went back to the station where he met an officer who inquired about the money and upon saying he did not have, he was searched and locked up.

“He was later removed from the cells and taken out, forced to push the motorcycle to the gate and then forced to push the motorcycle back to the yard and then taken to the cells,” the court heard. 

He was charged with stealing a motorcycle valued at Sh85,000 that was parked at the station yard and also being in possession of 10 rolls of bang worth Sh1,000.

The court heard that he was arrested when he reported to the station to follow up on the motorcycle and when he said he did not have money asked for allegedly as cash bail.

“From the evidence on record, the accused was not arrested in the manner and for the reasons alleged by the defence.

It is evident he was arrested when he went to the police station to follow up on the issue of the subject motor cycle.

He was never in possession of any cannabis and never attempted to steal the motorcycle,” Makueni Chief Magistrate JN Mwaniki ruled.

Attempted rape

The court was, however, told that there were many police officers at Mukuyuni police station and report desk that was manned hence there was no way the suspect would attempt to steal a motorcycle.

An officer at the station said she never recorded the presence of the motorcycle nor that of the alleged cannabis sativa in the exhibit register.

Four police officers testified in the case but the court concluded that the ‘cumulative inconsistencies in evidence by the accused (OCS) and his three officers could not be explained as forgetfulness, oversight or genuine mistake but an attempt to cover up’.

The Judge, however, said that attempt did not help or add value to the defence case.

“If anything it exposed the witnesses as not being truthful and diminished accused defence on that count.

These were officers engaging in what is called the ‘blue code of silence also referred to as the blue wall of silence’.”

The other case which was also concluded this week began on August 6, 2015 when an Administration Police Inspector Dickson Okoyo Ndemo attempted to defile his colleague’s daughter at Shauri Moyo staff quarters. 

The matter was promptly investigated and sufficient evidence was gathered.

What followed was a painful three-year journey as the suspect roamed freely, and even left the service and joined Kajiado county as the Sergeant-at-Arms.

Within this period, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) twice directed the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to arrest and charge the suspect but in vain.

A senior police officer instead colluded with the suspect and the suspect lodged a complaint to delay the process.

Finally, on November 8, 2018, Ndemo was arrested after the court issued a warrant of arrest.

Early 2016, the ODPP directed that the suspect be charged but the suspect instead wrote to the ODPP to complain, prompting further investigations that also involved revisiting the scene and also referring the girl to a child counsellor.

After reviewing the file for the second time, the ODPP maintained the earlier position that the suspect be charged in court.

Investigations would later reveal that while the then OCS Shauri Moyo kept the victim’s parents in the dark, he kept the suspect posted on the directives from the ODPP. Disciplinary action was taken against him and his deputy.

The then Buruburu DCI boss was directed to take over the case. The Buruburu DCI boss instead said the suspect could not be traced, despite the fact that he would occasionally be seen at the station.

Ndemo was charged with two offences; sexual offences relating to a position of authority and persons of trust, and indecent act. The court on Friday ruled that Ndemo has a case to answer. A ruling will be delivered this week.

A number of such cases have been recorded in the last few years.  The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) Board End Term Report May 2012 to May 2018 revealed that there were concerted efforts by the officers to cover up crimes, with official documents and exhibits being tampered with, shoddy and hasty investigations to defeat justice, and charging in court of victims of police misconduct to circumvent investigations, among others.

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