Thursday, August 18, 2016

Why are they still being vetted in public?

Do you believe that "police reforms" are even taking place? Not many people do any more save for the cohort at the heart of policing who believe that reforms involve the purchase of new vehicles and equipment. Policing seems - and police vetting seems to confirm this - one of the most corrupt public services. Ever. And that too in a public service where the scale of procurement scams seems to get bigger and bigger with each revelation.

Why the national Executive continues to permit the continued public vetting of policemen defies all logic. Recent public admissions by policemen - on camera too - have painted the police service as one of the most effective business schools in the world. Senior police officers have been at pains to explain the sources of multi-million shilling mobile money transactions, multi-million shilling land holdings and multi-million shilling bank deposits as being the proceeds of peer largesse, investment activities and grants and donations from complete strangers for jobs well done.

What we have witnessed, though, apart from the not-so-subtle admissions of corruption, is a police service whose senior echelons espouses a philosophy that has refused to advance in any meaningful way in its professional capacity. More senior officers are unaware of their responsibilities not only to each other as policemen but to the communities they serve in. You wonder how someone is promoted to a senior rank without understanding intimately the rank structure of the service but that wonder turns to understanding when the same policeman is unable to explain how one hundred million shillings passed through his mobile money account in four years. There is an intimate connection between the corruption of the police service and its deteriorating professionalism.

When a taxi operator who was the complainant against a policeman who had shot him without cause was abducted, together with his lawyer and another taxi driver, by policemen, tortured and murdered, few Kenyans sought to ask whether or not police reforms were "ongoing" because deep down in their hearts they knew for a fact that they are not. When a policeman professed fealty to al Shabaab and murdered several of his colleagues in a remote outpost, no one seemed outraged anymore, not even his superior officers or the Cabinet Secretary. When a member of the elite General Service Unit not only stole weapons and ammunition from the police but also deserted the service and is alleged to have participated in armed robberies (and is still at large), it didn't even rate the first five pages of any major national newspaper and only received fifteen seconds on the 9 o'clock news.

The decay in the police service was evident when the service attempted to recruit ten thousand new officers and couldn't because many recruits had paid hefty bribes in order to be recruited. You should ponder that. The men and women whom we entrust the duty of enforcing the law committed offences in order to become policemen and we did nothing about it: we neither prosecuted the bribe-givers nor the bribe-takers. We shouldn't be surprised that some policemen are worth one hundred million shillings and some are capable of raising seven million shillings a month "for their superiors." The only reforms that seem to have taken place in the police service revolve around the numbers involved; the fifty-shilling bribes of the nineties are no more.

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