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A neglected police force

SHIPPING & LOGISTICS
By | February 8th 2012

They are crammed in derelict shacks with leaking roofs where there is no privacy and they are not allowed to live outside police lines thus breeding stress, writes ALLAN OLINGO

They live in overcrowded houses with leaking roofs some of which are mud walled, but Kenyans look upon them to guarantee their security in their comfort zones.

Their privacy is never guaranteed as the police officers and their families are crammed in the few available houses without consideration as to their age, marital status or special needs.

Some of the derelict building housing police officers in different parts of the country. [PHOTO: MAARUFU MOHAMED AND BONIFACE THUKU/STANDARD]

As a result, stress levels among officers have increased sometimes forcing others to engage in wayward behaviours as others are driven to commit suicide or kill their colleagues.

Shelter is a basic human need, but the Government cannot guarantee these gallant officers housing with decency countrywide. Not even the 7,000 officers it plans to recruit will be guaranteed this basic human need.

Sharing houses

A spot check by The Underworld showed that officers are still sharing houses most of which are old and dilapidated timber and iron sheet structures. This is despite endless promises by the Government since 2003 that it would improve the police housing.

In police stations like Jogoo Road Police Station, officers have even converted balconies of their flats into houses so that an extra officer lives in the balcony.

The Underworld spotted cardboard enhancements on the balconies created to make additional rooms across the three stories police flats.

An officer staying at the Kariokor police lines lamented that they do not have hope of getting decent shelters as all they get from the government is empty promises.

"We know that all the government does is empty talk. How do you expect me to stay in a one roomed house with my family and expect me to serve this country diligently?" posed the officer who only identified himself as Martin for fear of victimisation.

In these police quarters, police officers are forced to share a two bedroomed house amongst three families making even the smallest of dignity a pipe dream for many. This means one officer will be staying in the sitting room where his roommates will be passing as they go to their rooms.

Humiliating conditions

Martin says that it is through the grace of God that they are able to bare the humiliating and demeaning conditions every day.

"We actually do not earn a salary but a wage because getting a Sh16,000 monthly salary and sharing a house with colleagues denies me and my family the dignity I should have as a state officer," laments Martin.

In Industrial Area, a police constable who identified himself as Moses noted that despite the living conditions having considerably improved, their state of housing wasn’t conducive especially for those who had families.

"Look at a scenario where I am sharing a two bedroomed flat with two of my colleagues who all have families. We are forced to share the kitchen, bathrooms and toilets. Where is the dignity in that? Do you think I will be happy at work?" poses Moses.

"We should not be told that we are mutineers when we ask for our welfare to be looked into. We are also Kenyans and just like other civil servants, we are employees of the state. It’s the minimum we can ask for," says Moses.

If policemen are living in these poor conditions because the government cannot afford, it is understandable but since the government is able but not willing to act, then there is a big problem.

In Mlolongo area, some police officers have resorted to renting flats within the area because the police houses provided were made of iron sheets. The same case with Imara Daima Police Post and the Administration Police Post where police officers are also forced to live in houses made of iron sheets.

Pathetic conditions

These complaints are not only with junior officers. The senior officers too feel the pinch as they are forced to rent houses.

A senior police officer who sought anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, notes that most police officers are living in pathetic conditions yet the Government and the citizens expect them to serve diligently.

"It is very sad that our officers have been neglected by the state when it comes to their welfare. Look at their pay? Do you think it’s even enough to afford them decency?" poses the senior officer.

"We need to treat the issue of the police welfare carefully because it’s not fair to make officers with families to share a two bedroomed house. Let’s assume a newly married young police officer leaves for his night shift, do you think he will be at peace knowing that his wife is sleeping in the same house as his colleges?" poses the officer.

Police procedure

According to standard police procedures, it is only police officers in the rank of Chief Inspectors and above who are allowed to live outside the police lines.

Deputy police spokesman Charles Owino explains that these officers are allowed to stay out of police lines because of the nature of their work. He says mostly they are duty officers and hence they are rarely called for emergencies.

"The officers from the rank of inspector and below are normally expected to stay within the police quarters even though there are those police stations that have living quarters for the senior officers," says Owino.

According to the police housing allowance structure, a police constable takes home between Sh10,000 and Sh16, 0000 in salary. Before Major General Hussein Ali came to office, they were being deducted Sh1,500 to cater for their housing, but he scrapped it off.

Meagre allowances

An officer in the rank of Inspector gets a house allowance of Sh6,000 while a Chief Inspector and a Superintendent gets around Sh10,000 as house allowance.

"The big question then is, in what estate are these officers expected to stay with these paltry amounts as their house allowances considering that the market rental rates of most houses in Nairobi is almost more than twice these amount? Should they stay in slums?" poses a senior police officer who requested not to be identified.

Welfare

Owino says that with the introduction of the Police Service Commission, they expect that police welfare should be taken care of, as they will have a body to look into these matters.

"The police Service Commission will give officers a forum where their plight will be addressed as their welfare hasn’t been really well taken care of," says Owino.

According to Owino, the Government should put more effort to look into the welfare of the police officers in order to have the police profession attract the best.

The police headquarters, Vigilance House, was built in 1966 to serve then Nairobi population of around 300,000 people yet with the current population of around 4million, the building is expected to host the senior officers. It is outstretched and overcrowded.

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