BLUE CODE OF SILENCE; BIG THREAT TO PROFESSIONAL POLICING

BLUE CODE OF SILENCE; BIG THREAT TO PROFESSIONAL POLICING

BY IPOA News

On August 12, 2017, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority received information that a nine-year-old girl was fatally wounded after being shot by a police officer.

After investigations, the Authority determined that an inquest be conducted by a Magistrates court, a recommendation that was upheld by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In court, IPOA adduced evidence as it was gathered and analysed by its investigators and on March 16, 2021, presiding Chief Magistrate in Nairobi Andayi W.F. ruled that that Stephany Moraa, 9, died after a trigger-happy officer shot her at the height of 2017 post-election violence in the city’s Mathare North Area 2; but the killer was shielded by seniors who oversaw the fateful operation that was meant to cool the mayhem.

On the fateful day, just like many other children in the sprawling slum whose time of play had been abruptly cut short by arrival of armed police contingents in their neighbourhood, young Stephany’s curiosity drew her to the balcony of her parents’ house, eager to witness the drama that would unfold.

According to court records, “the police officer who was in company of another and

clearly visible to the witnesses took aim of the point where the witnesses were, pointing his gun at them. In the first instance, the officer crouched down, took aim and pointed but dropped the gun. He did so a second time and fired.”

It added; “The bullet felled Stephany as she struggled to exit the balcony.”

During the inquest, IPOA lead investigator concluded; “lack of cooperation from the police in making available the requested police documents hindered the Authority from ascertaining the formations of the officers deployed in the area.”

IPOA’s position was duly endorsed by the Court. Among others called by the Court, then Senior Superintendent of Police Alice Jerotich Kimeli, who was in charge of Starehe Sub-County Police Command and under whose jurisdiction the matter fell, said the mayhem was an emergency and thus there was no Operation Order prepared to guide her deployments.

An Operation Order is a plan that details among others, the number and identities of officers deployed for a certain task, their commanders, their physical limits of action, as well as their mission and instructions.

Hon. Andayi chastised the Mathare operation and in his ruling, referred to earlier cases where police officers chose to shield their own at the expense of citizens who they swore to serve at induction into National Police Service.

The Court noted: “The blue code of silence is a common phenomenon, spanning across different countries and police cultures in America, Europe, Asia and even Africa. It is the unwritten rule according to which police officers never provide incriminating information about their colleagues; to close ranks in silence and to cover up knowledge of a fellow officer’s wrongdoing with a collective blanket of self preservation, a feeling of esprit de corps among officers who by and large depend on each other for their very risky lives as they confront the violent and hostile world of policing and crime.  This background is important in our consideration of this appeal because the police in Kenya, as we shall demonstrate in this case as in others before it, has, in certain circumstances engaged in the practice of covering up for each other.”

The Chief Magistrate forwarded his ruling to the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions for “necessary action.”

The court added: “IPOA must be applauded for taking up these cases and bringing them up to the public even as their efforts are frustrated by the blue code of silence. I am almost certain that if the police service wished to identify and bring to book the officer who took away the life of Stephany, it would not take them a day to do so. In conclusion I find that the death of the deceased was by deliberate shooting by a police officer whose identity has been frustrated by police officers covering for one another under the blue code of silence.”