Friday, January 21, 2011

How many people may a police officer shoot and kill legally?

Human life is precious. I strive with honest desire to discover, and greatly struggle against the strong subjectivity of my circumstance as a human, yet find nothing more sacrosanct than the vital force in a person. This, to me, therefore, is a self-evident truth: that the life of any and every person is worth more than everything and anything else.

I have personal reasons for respecting human life, above being well aware of the inherent evil of human minds, but will not recount them here. I will, instead, lean standing at the foyer of Law, on the Pillar of our national Constitution. The lofty preamble, in the mould of that immortal American bequest to democracy, starts us off with this promise:

   We the People of Kenya …
         COMMITTED to nurturing and protecting the well-being of the
                            individual, the family, communities and the nation:…

as evidence to the value of the individual to the nation.

My guiding law, at Article 3

    [(1) Every person has an obligation to respect, uphold and defend this Constitution],

enjoins us all to regard the national values and principles espoused in it, and set out at Article 10. Here, human dignity is not included in error. Neither is the emphasis on the rule of law, nor accountability. These are all key values of my nation.

That being so, from where does our persistent impunity and extra-judiciality originate?

I will not excuse, or be accused of defending crime in any hue. And that is exactly the point! Crime is not codifiable into private or public categories. Crime by a wanted brigand, or a wanton state brigade is crime. I will not fork out my taxes, to be protected by a police ‘force’ of whimpering sissies; nor will I foot the bill for a ‘service’ of marauding, blood-thirsty and trigger-jacking hounds. Neither is contemplated in law or fact.

I, nay, we the people expect to be served by professional, humane and law-regarding police officers.

Murder is a crime recognized in all law, and especially without resistance, cannot be used as a defense against another crime. Listen to this:

   Article 26 (1) Every person has the right to life.

Short and precise: every person, including the common criminal. There must be a part of that sentence that the superintendents at Vigilance House do not recognize, and it is spelled E-V-E-R-Y.

Article 27 appears as an oasis of life in this desert of perversion.

    (1) Every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law.

    (4) The State shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth.

Many will claim that criminals have no consciences; which is vapid nonsense. We will not be in good reason expecting the conscience of each individual to work in exactly the same way, with the same markers, beacons and light-houses to point right from wrong. Just as some eye-sights are colour-blind, failing to differentiate green from blue, some consciences are as naturally out of tune.

That must reasonably be recognized as a disability. At least a modern, civilized society should. And most do, creating judicial and correctional facilities to preserve and protect wider society from these vagaries wreaked by Nature herself. If science endeavours to correct failing eyesight, so evidently and avidly should science attempt to correct consciences.

Call it character management, behavior control, mind engineering, what not. Many organizations and groups do it. My church did it to me, before I realized and took leave of absence. Further about consciences, it is the moral duty of every social grouping to protect the individual within it from being rendered soulless and totally taken over by the addictive routine of the rituals and performances of their jobs.

When Pavlov (Ivan, and his protégé, Ivan Filippovitch Tolochinov, 1901) confirmed conditioned reflex action by experimenting amongst dogs, he was testing the power of mind over the functioning of the body. Have we trained and raised our police organs to such callous and murderous conditioning, that the only way – they know – of reacting to crime is to cock-aim-and-twitch-the-index-finger? If we have, then it becomes our task as society to shed the habit, unlearn the condition, learn fresh approaches, and relearn our compassionate instinctive nature.

The Kenya Police Service owes a duty to its officers to protect them from running amok, armed amongst millions, maiming and ruthlessly lining up a morose, mournful trail. It is an urgent good: that the people trusted with the protection of society, and the maintenance of its law and order, must in turn be protected, for their own good – in the mind.

Otherwise, we sow some sort of Pavlovian anchoring, a gluttonous, Tekayo-esque[1] appetite for human blood, and reap the whirlwind – a Lamarckian[2] adaptation to murder.

We have thus far, ended up with criminal investigators and intended crime busters who no longer bother to exercise their minds. They are tired of being ‘played around with, ever running on recurrent fools errands.’

When witnesses to crime, or even while contemplating its possibility, they act – rather, react – reflexively. They are run as hostages by sudden resurgences of desires and sharpened, animalistic reactions to crime scenes, and will kill without choice or will.

Someone mentioned the late king of Nairobi shots – a Mr. Patrick Shaw, infamous for performing final rites amongst the pot-shot clans. He met his end the same way, to confirm the adage. Still, Shaw was a man hardened by the weight of his time: policing a city in the aftermath of an attempted coup. Men had died of the gun, and many soldiers had been loosed on society, relieved of their honourable duty, due to indiscipline. They knew how to use guns, and were out of the regimented sequestration of the barracks without much hope or welcome.

They were roaming the streets with angst and disillusionment, victims of the State’s indifference, and willing to pay back in kind to a society that bailed from their side at the smell of trouble. They needed a force to control them, and due to a failed Police policy, Shaw had to run the show. He did his bit, standing up to a rabid army only as one man can, until the inevitable happened. But Kenya today is not Shaw’s Kenya.

We have reached a point of national maturity and identity. We have something in us that we sorely lacked in 1985. Yet the Police of today do not seem to adapt to this national maturity and recognition of change. They want to be Patrick ‘Show’, instead of serving their country, like did Mr. Shaw. Shaw acted to protect the society from a rogue military element. Show me who will protect us from ‘a service’ that discriminates on the basis of conscience, against our sacred Constitution.

I would like someone to answer this: How many people may a police officer kill, before he is psychologically declared disabled of conscience, unable to deliver the public good, and therefore unfit to hold a gun? One. Three. Five?

Determining this number is the solution to extra-judicial shootings in Kenya. The number will act as a touchstone, a defence post beyond which officers will not venture. It will be a second deterrence, beyond normal human feeling, and will definitely save lives. The number will advise action, control choices and recall to sense any officer in a moment requiring use of gun-force. Hit this tally and retire. Or simply, serve without killing people.

Self-defence as an excuse has been adulterated. In my opinion, if a single officer can shoot three armed, ‘dangerous’ criminals in a single ‘fight’, then the danger is imaginary.

A man, a criminal man, any man will give their all to live. That three men are routinely downed by one officer in an instant is a measure of skewed aggression. That ten police officers maroon a thug and pound him to steaming pulp, is still a measure of misplaced choices. Either the others were not armed, or they were not interested in the shootout. But most probably, the police just wanted to ‘finish off the job.’

How else, would we explain their daily ‘dangerous criminal’ tag? How dangerous, if always ending up stiff on the mortuary slab?

Main and disarm, arrest then charge!

Or is it because there are never any facts to prove a crime in court?

Callous: "Lie dowb well, so that we may finish you off!"

Scavenging: "Loitering with intent to cause a breach of the peace..."

[1] Grace Ogot, 2001: Land Without Thunder, East African Educational Publishers, Nairobi.

[2] Jean-Baptiste Lamarck: ‘Soft Inheritance’ - works and heritage, online materials about Lamarck (23.000 files of Lamarck's herbarium, 11.000 manuscripts, books, etc.) edited online by Pietro Corsi (Oxford University) and released by CRHST-CNRS in France.