It just occurred to me that I don’t actually know what my rights are, insofar as the law is concerned, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. What’s more, I don’t even know where to begin looking for them.
For instance, if some rough looking fellow appeared at your elbow and said “Police. Come with me!“, would you go along? If you run away you might be collared for resisting arrest or something of the sort. That is if you’re lucky. If you’re not you’ll be shot in the head and the next thing you know your nearest and dearest will be seeing your photo on TV and a police spokesman describing your dearly departed ass as being “…most wanted criminal wanted in connection with a series of carjackings in Nairobi…”
When the aforementioned dude is in plains clothes things are even muddier.
From my observations (and numerous painful experiences) the word of a cop is the law. He can tell you to lick his boots and if you refuse you are automatically charged with one of the following:
- Drunk and disorderly
- Loitering with intent
For that matter, you can be charged with all three and promptly find yourself very arrested in the cramped confines in the back of a Land Rover.
The cops can also with impunity help themselves to anything on your person. In common streaks of generosity they relieve you of the burden of mobile phones, wallets, money, jewellery, etc. Any attempts to secure your property at the station will only earn you additional charges and therefore additional full board accommodation as a guest of the Government.
They can even bang at your gate and demand access to your house. It is only the foolhardy who refuse to let them in. And while they are in, they generally conduct very thorough searches. Anything that is not nailed down or that lacks foundations is tossed to all corners of the compass, and you have no say in the matter. Compensation for your damaged property is a foreign concept.
I’m very sure that there are rules and regulations that govern the operations of the police with regards to arrests, questioning, custody and so forth. The problem is that the public don’t know then and neither do the police. Most behave as if that uniform and rifle are a licence to do as they please, which sets very dangerous precedents and can have very nasty repercussions. I personally harbour deep suspicions as to the quality of training the constables and corporals get. They seem to be principally muscle men of sorts.
Here’s a couple of thoughts:
- Review the training that constables go through and drum the relevant sections of the law into the cadets. They need to realize that they are not all powerful
- Place all the facts as to the rights of citizens with respect to the police in a booklet that can be acquired for free, or for a token fee.
- Place aforementioned booklet in public libraries and schools