Have you ever been stopped by a policeman and wondered what you did wrong? In Kenya, the risk of you being wrongfully detained is higher than usual. Police and city council askaris prey on the naivety of Kenyans to extort money for non-existent charges.
Being read your rights isn’t just in the movies. A police officer is required to tell you your rights as an arrested person which include the right to representation, the right to remain silent and the reason for the arrest.
You cannot be arrested for your looks. Dreadlocks or long beards are not the standard units of measure for criminals. Don’t be hesitant to try a new hairstyle just because you might get arrested. Most of the times policemen will stop you if you look suspicious. It has nothing to do with your hair. They’re not dumb nor do they have the time to stop every guy in dreadlocks or a shaggy beard.
You’re not required to have your ID or Driver’s License in your possession at all times. Although it’s common sense to carry some kind of identification document with you, it not a compulsory requirement. What is required is for you to produce these documents within 24 hours.
Conmen can actually get you arrested. Sometimes, policemen are quick to solve cases as long as there is some kind of connection. Back when I was in university my friend was conned Ksh 20,000 by some kamiti people. The problem wasn’t that she was conned, the problem was that the conmen, with their elaborate lies, convinced her to go to an M-PESA agent who also got conned. So, the M-PESA agent thought my roommate was part of the gang and had her arrested. It wasn’t a pleasant ordeal but she learned her lesson. Don’t trust anybody.
Petty offences such as parking offenses, intoxication or general nuisance do not warrant an arrest. What should happen (but most times doesn’t) is you’re fined on the spot and given a time period to pay the fine. So, these city askaris who scoop people left, right and center are actually breaking the law.
Buying a second-hand phone from unauthorized dealers is just as bad as committing murder. We’ve all heard the story of the guy who purchased a phone that belonged to someone who was found dead. Naturally, this person was arrested and charged with murder. The wise men say cheap is expensive. Don’t buy phones from people you don’t know as well. Make sure you get a receipt when you buy your phone so that you have proof of purchase.
You should not be held in a police cell for more than 24 hours without being presented before a magistrate or a judge. This is a constitutional right and if violated, automatically dismisses any charges against you.
Have at least one number of a policeman you can call. Whether you’re in trouble or you need someone to get you out of trouble, who better than a policeman? Make friends with policemen in your area and your life will be a lot easier. They’re human beings too.