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Worrying concerns over Kapenguria police attack

A tragic incident in which seven police officers were shot dead in Kapenguria station yesterday brings to memory the horrific Baragoi massacre that saw the country lose 46 officers to bandits in the treacherous Suguta Valley.

In the Baragoi incident in 2012, it turned out police were not adequately armed and prepared for the mission—pursuing rustlers. It also emerged that a senior superintendent of police on the ground was ignored by his seniors when he advised against the mission.

Just last week, there were media reports of a drunk man in Marsabit, assaulting two police officers and even resisting arrest. His case is still pending in court, on charges of being drunk and disorderly, resisting arrest and assault. In yesterday’s case, a terror suspect booked at the Kapenguria Police Station reportedly grabbed a firearm from a duty officer and went on the attack.

Such disturbing incidents raise questions about level of vigilance, facilitation and combat readiness of those tasked to maintain law and order. One may be forgiven for asking: Is it that their exposure is inadequate to equip them to undertake the often perilous duties they are deployed to?

Granted, the element of surprise and ambush plays a role to ensure those targeted are caught flat-footed but ideally police officers are expected to be alive to these realities, and be appropriately prepared—including mentally. Although terrorist attacks, as the Kapenguria incident appears to be, can occur any time and at the most unlikely of places, it must be borne in mind that police have no choice but to operate within a certain level of preparedness.

That must be the case principally because they are trained not just in physical combat but also weapon handling, crime detection and prevention and an array of other security-related manoeuvres. But when a siege like the one witnessed yesterday is staged, uncomfortable questions must nonetheless be asked.

How did he overpower police officer(s) to secure firearm? Was it a case of complicity as this turned out to be? Going further, the assumption is that police officers working in security operation areas should know better how to treat dangerous suspects. Shouldn’t certain suspects be handcuffed to prevent them from springing surprise?

It appears that the National Police Service needs serious rethink on how officers operate and how they deal with emerging security threats, such as terrorism. In short, a lot more alertness is needed for our officers. Meanwhile, it is prudent to probe what exactly transpired in Kapenguria to avoid a recurrence of such an attack.

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