• We have always called for police reforms. Some progress has been made, but the big number of police arrested over crimes calls for more.
• Even as we lambast the police, we desperately need their services.
It is blood chilling to know that in the past five weeks, some 48 police officers have been arrested and charged for various crimes.
These are people Kenyans trust with their security, hire to guard fundraising activities and report to fellows they suspect or when a crime is committed. It is their last bastion of security.
When the police fail to provide security, people are forced to rely on private firms. This is increasingly becoming the case, and with it a push for private guards to be allowed to carry guns. If those bearing guns within the police are becoming such a scare, we can only hold our breath about issuing more guns without a requisite level of accountability.
Lack of faith in the police has greatly increased personal expenses on security. Many Kenyans are now living in barricaded homes otherwise called gated communities. Homes are taking the semblance of refugee camps or prisons with high walls, razor-sharp wires, guards, guard dogs, heavy metal grills on doors and windows, alarm systems and standby 24-hour rapid response vehicles.
Soon the rogue police may take on the private guards. Someone needs to calculate the increasing cost of private security in comparison to an effective national police force. Retreating into security ghettos is not the solution. It is said that the best defense is attack.
We have always called for police reforms. Some progress has been made, but the big number of police arrested over crimes calls for more.
Truth be told, even as we lambast the police, we desperately need their services. Politicians condemn the police and also complain when their security detail is reduced or withdrawn. Police presence is used to sell residential plots. We need the police on our roads, in private and public functions and in countless other situations. We basically need more police than we currently have.
Unfortunately from before independence, we have not treated our police well. We collectively have a deep-rooted dislike, sometimes hatred, of them. We usually do not consider them as our brothers and sisters. We do not consider them as husbands, wives, fathers and mothers; employees trying like us to make ends meet. Our national psyche says police are not human with feelings and needs like all of us. We have watched in silence as they have been abused, provoked unnecessarily, risked or even lost their lives to protect ours and our property. We have largely not stood with them.
We do not champion enough improvement in their working conditions to equal the heavy responsibility placed on them. We are reminded often, and quickly forget, that their houses and offices are largely dehumanising and the remuneration is not comparatively reasonable. We cannot claim ignorance of the temptations they face and we know what we ought to do. For example, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission is among the highest paying institutions in the country.
EACC staff earn more than other workers in their job grade because they deal directly with corruption. The police are not in any less a situation while fighting corruption, terrorism and all manner of crime. Yet we keep them at the lowest-earning level.
There is no doubt that remunerating the police bearing in mind the significance of the work they do will save the country and each citizen a lot of money. Everyone will live and operate more freely, and securely. The efficiency of the police would dissuade many from engaging in mischief and many who transgress against others would get caught, tried and convicted. Without a robust efficient and motivated police much of the money spent on EACC or Parliamentarians will not bring a return equivalent to money put in.
While we point an accusing finger at the police, we need to rethink our relationship with them, as they risk their lives protecting our property and our lives. The work has numerous day-to-day pressures and temptations.
Working hours, shortages in resources and general welfare during years of service and after need serious deliberations with an empathetic spirit. Even in France, police unions say there have been more than 50 suicides by officers since January, which they blame on difficult working conditions and increasing violence towards them.
Our nation must take better care of the police or we continue paying a bigger price in rising insecurity. We tend to mostly apply negative motivation with the police. We need to apply more positive motivation which would raise morale and command greater respect from the populace.
Our national anti police psyche must be deconstructed. We cannot continue with the normal business of us against them. We must be on the same side. When we fight each other it is the goons who benefit.