When it comes to killings, Kenya police has few equals: They kill more people in days than other countries do in years, a Nation Newsplex analysis reveals.
Studies around the world have linked the number and rate of police killings to factors such as whether police are armed all the time, gun ownership rates, adherence to police guidelines firearms use, quality of training offered to police recruits and poverty levels.
With a police killing rate of 3.2 per million people, Kenya’s police killing rate last year was almost at par with that of the United States’ rate of 3.5 per million. However, both were dwarfed by South Africa who kill at the rate of 7.2 people per million.
However databases on police killings in the US capture almost every case unlike in Kenya where killings in marginalised and slum areas often go unreported and undocumented (Read the story on police killings in Mathare in the Daily Nation tomorrow).
The US, which has made the headlines across the world for its dismal record on police killing has the highest private gun ownership rate in the world, 89 civilian firearms per 100, according to data from the Small Arms Survey by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies based in Geneva.
According to the website Gunpolicy.org, the US rate is even higher, at 101 civilian guns per 100 people, while Kenya has two civilian guns per 100 people.
Private gun ownership in the US has been associated with higher rates of gun-related homicide. However, more recently, the shootings by police of unarmed black people, many of which have been captured on video, have led to public unrest.
About 1,146 people were killed by the police in the US last year, according to The Counted, The Guardian’s database on people killed by the police in the US. About 27 per cent of those killed were . Blacks made up 13 per cent of the US population, according to 2015 estimates by that country’s census bureau. This means that African Americans were killed at a rate twice their proportion in the population.
Despite the protests in the United States, the killing rate in that country is dwarfed by South Africa.
There were 396 deaths from police action in South Africa in the financial year 2014-2015, according a report by the country’s Independent Police Investigative Directorate, while in Kenya Deadly Force recorded more than 140 recorded fatalities caused by police in 2015.
However given that Kenya does not have a publicly available centralised system of recording killings by police, the true number of deaths remains largely unknown.
With a population of 55 million compared to Kenya’s 44 million, South Africa’s police killing rate is 7.2 deaths per million people, twice as deadly as Kenyan police, who kill at the rate of 3.2 per million people.
Police killing statistics in Kenya, South Africa and the United States are a far cry from the killing rates in European countries and Japan.
By 2015, police in Norway had shot and killed only two people since 2002, according to a 2015 report on the use of police firearms in Norway. Even allowing for Norway’s relatively small population of five million, or a ninth of Kenya’s, the killings in Kenya appear disproportionately high.