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"Taking Injustice Personally"

Meet Sgt. Grace Asami - Best Human Rights Officer in the country

Sgt. Grace Asami - No.1 - Best Human Rights Officer

Service no. 226881, Butula AP Sub-county station, Busia county

“Members of the public described Ms. Asami as a diligent and experienced officer. They cited her for advocacy for defilement cases that have culminated into successful investigations and prosecutions. She has also participated in public sensitization in sexual offence crimes. Her senior officers described her as an officer of integrity who is passionate and responsive to client policing needs. Further, they reported she mentors her colleagues on professional policing.”

Where were you born and where did you go to school?
I was born in Butere in 1982. I studied in Bunyore Girls, then Khwisero secondary, and after that attended the Administration Police Training College in Embakasi in 2003. Following this, i did a diploma in forensic and criminal investigations at the Kenya Institute of Criminal Justice in Kakamega.

What made you want to be a police officer?
I have the passion of serving people. Growing up, we had two police stations near our home: Khwisero police station and divisional office of the DO. When I was young I would watch them march and really admire them and say that i wanted to to be like them.

What do you think differentiates you/sets you apart from your workmates that helped you win this award?
I am always trying to improve myself so as to get better to help the community. Apart from my earlier training, i have done many other courses on defilement investigations and dealing with rape cases. These helped me become better at handling these cases and treating the survivors differently and also teach the community and my fellow officers on how to deal with such cases. I’ve been able to help reduce the cases of defilement in the six sub-counties i have worked in. A lot of this has been done by going to different forums, schools and churches, to train community members about these issues. When I was posted in Kakamega East Sub-county in 2009, the cases of defilement were very high; we would receive up to 14 cases per day. This is when I came up with these programs. My teachings helped people lose the fear of reporting cases as now i had established rapport with them. Another thing i have been able to do is ensure the successful prosecution of a lot of these cases. For example, there was a teacher in a primary school who raped a class 7 student and made her pregnant. I got involved and got the case in coutrt. This teacher and another one that had raped 23 of the 29 girls in his class are no longer at work  The last month before I was transferred, a pastor also raped his brothers daughter; his brother had died and the girl was left under his care. The case went to court and was prosecuted. Another man had raped fve girls and given them AIDS. This case is also now in court. A lawyer, Anne Ireri, who also runs an NGO Equality Effect has supported me in a lot of these programs. She brought the Canadian police here to train us on how to handle defilement cases. Now go round the country training other police officers, I am a trainer of trainers. 

How did you feel when you were awarded?
I felt very good because I felt that members of the public are recognizing that they are receiving the right services from police officers. I felt I have achieved. I was also happy because mostly, the image of the national police service has been bad but after the awards, members of the public can now see that there are good police officers in the country.

What are some of the challenges you have faced along the way?
Sometimes you face challenges as a woman. You can go to arrest a person and the person becomes violent and says, "You woman, what will you do to me?" Some communities do not recognize women leaders. Also as a married policewoman, when a case comes up, you must leave your duties at home, even if you were making tea, and and go take care of the public. As a woman, you have to be very determined to stay on at this kind of work. It means you have to get someone who understand you. Another challenge which affects all polive officers is political interference. Like you might arrest a criminal from a politicians family and the politician will ask you not to prosecute the person. Some of the politicians also tell us not to arrest certain offenders such as beer brewers, because they are their voters. 

In these times of distrust and hostility between the public and the police, what advice would you give to the public on interacting with the police?
At the village baraza's, i tell them not to fear the police but simply respect us abd give us information about who the criminals in the area are. Citizens should not be afraid of us, they should be free with us and be forthcoming with information. 

What advice would you give to fellow police officers on attaining excellence in their work?
For me, it is something that I even tell my fellow officers when we have our weekly meetings: the best way is to respect the law and the constitution, because it is what guides all our work. All police officers need to read the constitution and respect the rule of law. They should also be aware of the National Police Service Act of 2011, the penal code, the criminal procedure code, the children's act and the Sexual Offences Act. If you google, you will find them.

How do you unwind when not at work?
I listen to gospel music. I like Rose Muhando. I also like exercising. I take students and also fellow officers for exercise in the morning. We wake up at 5.30 or 6am and exercise before attending the master parade.

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