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September 19, 2018

Poor pay and working conditions blamed for murderous tendencies

EACC officers search traffic police officers arrested while taking bribes in Kilifi last year.
EACC officers search traffic police officers arrested while taking bribes in Kilifi last year.

Poor remuneration within the National Police Service has been cited as the major reason for their brutality and corruption. Muhuri, a Mombasa-based civil society group, says most officers are also frustrated by “deplorable” working conditions.

These are some of the findings the group has compiled from meetings with the security enforcers. So far, Muhuri has covered three subcounties in Mombasa, and plans to hold similar fact-finding meetings in other counties in Coast.

Muhuri rapid response officer Fahad Changi says police officers’ working environment is “deplorable and unfavourable”. He says the conditions are not conducive for officers to have a good rapport with the communities they deal with.

Changi says this has contributed to the rising cases of police brutality and other misconduct.

“Some of these problems, which most people [don’t] see as a big deal, actually affect them mentally and are the reason why cases of police brutality against Kenyans are on the rise,” he says.

Low salaries have left many officers “stressed”, making them sink into depression, which in some cases results in the officers killing citizens or themselves. Changi says this has also led to unending cases of bribery in the police service.

The situation is likely to get worse if new rules by the National Police Service Commission are implemented. The commission has proposed barring officers from running any business beside their official job, which will deny them extra income.

According to the new guidelines, officers who want to engage in business or any other activities must first seek clearance. If their application is accepted, he or she will have to comply with stiff conditions for conducting the business or leave the service.

Those who already operate businesses are required to declare them; otherwise, they will be subjected to disciplinary action should the commission find out.

The guidelines are contained in six new policies that the NPSC — the employer of the police officers— has introduced as part of police reforms.

The policies cover training, housing, counselling and chaplaincy, welfare and conflict of interest.

LOGIC BEHIND REFORMS

NPSC chairman Johnston Kavuludi said the draft policies would guide the operations and other critical aspects of the police service.

In line with the Public Officer Ethics Act, gifts received by police officers during work will be surrendered to the Inspector General. They will be considered as donations to the office.

Muhuri points out that officers have been psychologically neglected by their employer. Police officers who suffer trauma are rarely taken through counselling, which hurts their working experience.

In 2015, an officer who witnessed the murder of his colleagues, including OCPD Hezborn Otieno, in Changamwe, Mombasa county, broke down in court while he narrated the attack by a group of suspected Mombasa Republican Council members. The officer said the images traumatised him.

Other reasons identified by the organisation include officers receiving orders from their superiors to conduct operations in a particular manner. “When a junior officer receives orders to deal mercilessly with citizens, then we should expect brutality in the operations,” Changi says.

Oppression of junior officers by their seniors is also another reason for increased police brutality. Changi says juniors officers end up “taking revenging” on citizens instead.

Adapting to new workstations when transferred to harsh environments is also a difficulty that the servicemen and servicewomen face.

The officers’ own security has been threatened. They have been attacked and some killed by organised criminals on a revenge mission.

In July, a gangster attacked and killed an undercover officer in Kisauni. The unidentified gangman stabbed the detective in the neck and back.

The victim and his colleague had been pursuing three gang members at Magodoroni in Kisauni, Mombasa county, when the attack happened.

In 2013, four police officers, including an OCPD and OCS of Changamwe police station, were killed by panga-wielding thugs.

OCPD Otieno, OCS Salim Kimutai, and officers Stephen Maithya and Andrew Songwa were killed when the gang raided the police station.

And while the officers are attacked and maimed, they have no one to speak out on their behalf.

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