POLICE ABUSE OF POWER
Police abuse of power is a devastating, global issue:
Hundreds of millions of the poorest people in the developing world are abused by corrupt police who extort bribes and brutalize innocent citizens, or are held in abusive pre-trial detention.
In many places in the developing world, rather than teach their children to run to the police if they are in trouble, parents must teach them to run from the police to stay safe from harm.
"Poor people regard the police as agents of oppression, not protection. Over and over again, poor people said that justice and police protection are only for rich businesses, rich people and those with connections."
– Voices of the Poor, The World Bank
- In any given year, there are about 10 million people held in pre-trial detention in the world’s prisons and jails. 1
- In 2012, the IJM team and its partners estimated that 15-30% of prisoners awaiting trial in Nairobi’s Industrial Remand Prison alone may be victims of police abuse.
- A recent study by the Kenyan Independent Policing Oversight Authority found that in nearly 2 out of every 3 felony cases examined that went to full trial, police never gathered enough evidence to charge (let alone convict) the accused person with a crime. 2
Understand the Issue
Arbitrary Arrest & Detention
In many communities in the developing world, the police can detain suspects in jail with virtually no evidence. In these circumstances, it is easy for officers to frame poor people who may have limited formal education in order to conclude investigations quickly. Poor people can be imprisoned on the basis of a mere accusation, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or even for being unable to pay a bribe to a corrupt officer.
Without an advocate, victims of false imprisonment can waste away in jail for years of their life—in fact, experts have identified cases in which Kenyan prisoners have been detained up to 17 years before receiving a trial. 3 Court proceedings are often held in official languages—a language the falsely accused person may not speak or understand—and translators are not provided.
For a family struggling in poverty, imprisonment of an innocent breadwinner means that necessities like food, education, shelter, clothing and medicine can slip out of reach. They may be forced to relocate to even more insecure housing, or take their children out of school to work, all because they cannot afford the fees. Most families cannot afford to even visit their loved ones in prison.
In many places in the world, “torture remains a routine part of police work to extract confessions or other information from suspects who refuse to ‘cooperate.’” 4
With insufficient training on professional methods of investigation and virtually no accountability for bad police, corrupt officers can physically and sexually assault those they are meant to protect. The terrifying result is that billions of the poorest people live in communities in which the police not only fail to protect them from violent predators, but where the police themselves become violent predators.
IJM combats police abuse of power in Nairobi, Kenya
We identify innocent men and women detained without evidence, investigate the case to prove their innocence, and represent them in court to secure their freedom and an acquittal of the false charges against them.
BRING CRIMINALS TO JUSTICE
We collaborate with government investigative agencies to prosecute abusive police.
We provide ongoing care to the victim and his family while he is imprisoned, and develop a re-integration plan for self-sufficiency in freedom.
STRENGTHEN JUSTICE SYSTEMS
We provide hands-on training and mentoring for police and other officials, and support the government in strengthening the legal safeguards that protect innocent people.
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1Open Society Foundations. Pretrial Detention and Torture: Why Pretrial Detainees Face the Greatest Risk.
2 Independent Policing Oversight Authority. Baseline Survey on Policing Standards and Gaps in Kenya.
3 Open Society Justice Initiative. Pretrial Detention and Torture: Why Pretrial Detainees Face the Greatest Risk.