NAIROBI (Reuters) – Nearly half of Kenyans surveyed by the government’s police watchdog IPOA said they had suffered police abuse of power, according to a survey it released on Wednesday, underscoring the scale of the task the body faces in holding officers to account.
Kenyans have long complained of police brutality but face an uphill battle in getting justice.
The study by The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), formed in 2011, found that the public is still afraid to report police abuse, fearing victimisation and believing no action will be taken.
The IPOA said the incidence of police abuse reported in their survey of nearly 6,000 households marked a “significant increase” compared with its last such survey, in 2013.
More than 46% of respondents said they had been victims of at least one form of police abuse of power, up from 30% in the survey six years ago.
Police abuse of power was defined in the survey as “inappropriate conduct…or illegal actions taken by police officers” in their official duties.
Of those who said they had experienced police brutality, less than 10% had reported their case to the IPOA.
Another 70% reported the abuse at their local police station but more than half of them said their report did not yield any results.
A 2018 Reuters investigation https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/kenya-police-watchdog found that the IPOA was struggling to fulfil its mandate. At that time, it had secured convictions of police officers for committing crimes in only two cases, despite having received more than 9,200 complaints.
In one case that drew media attention, the 28-year-old son of a British aristocrat was found dead in his cell in 2012 after he was detained during a night out. His family criticised the IPOA’s investigation of the death. A years-long inquest found in 2018 that there had been attempts to cover up what had happened and a trial began in January 2019.
The IPOA’s study concluded that it was not possible to compare public confidence in the watchdog between its 2013 and 2019 surveys, because different survey methods were used.
However, it said that survey respondents “appeared impressed by some instances in which cases of police misconduct have been handled by the IPOA and justice served”, referring to one of the cases where a court sentenced a police officer to jail time for abuse.
(Reporting By Maggie Fick; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)