Why does a society have police forces? Is it so that they can intimidate children living on the streets? Is it so that they can harass a young girl on her way home from a club on a Saturday night? Is it so that they can harass and embarrass a taxi driver into the point of bribery? Or is it so that they can shoot and kill the innocent? The answers are NO! But nobody told the police of Nairobi.
I have been with street children when the police come around. They bring fear, intimidation, and cold stares. They carry rifles (sometimes AK-47s) for intimidation and clubs for Rodney King. They’re a force drunk on power and they use it on children drunk on hopelessness.
Another time, I sat in my friend’s car in the middle of the road in the late hours of a Saturday night after an evening of dancing, while the police questioned her on the side of the road. What had she done? Nothing, except be a young, well-dressed, Kenyan woman driving an expensive car full of friends. Yeah, she must be a criminal.
Then, recently my loyal taxi driver who has picked me up all over this town at all hours of day and night was stopped at a police checkpoint. No big deal, I thought. It happens all the time in Nairobi. But, this time it was a big deal. We hadn’t fastened our seat belts yet (lesson learned), which was apparently cause for the driver to be questioned at the rear of the car. When he got back in the car, I asked him if he had to bribe the cop. He gave a soft “no,” and then slipped his wallet back into his pocket.
These are events that Kenyans live with. Street children grow used to state-sponsored intimidation, and drivers grow used to purposeless questioning that sometimes ends in a bribe. But, Kenyans never grow used to the killing of the innocent by the police. No matter how much it happens, murder is murder, even if it wears a badge.
My coworker’s husband was shot on Friday. He was shot three times while unarmed and lying in the grass. He was shot by a plainclothes police officer who was misinterpreted as a common thug engaging in a common carjacking.
A policeman with little training, less restraint, a gun, and three bullets killed a father who simply lied in the grass fearing who he thought was a carjacking thug. It does more than break my heart, it makes it bleed.
Posted By Jonathan Homer
Posted Jul 17th, 2007