Police jolted into action after 200 officers suffer mental illness

Kenya Police Service (Cadets) follow proceedings at Kiganjo Police Training College in Nyeri [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

The National Police Service (NPS) is closely monitoring more than 200 officers with mental illness in the wake of rising suicide and murder cases.

According to a document prepared by the National Police Service Commission (NPSC), it is assessing 104 officers to determine their suitability to continue serving while another 113 are being treated for mental distress.

“There are about 113 police officers within the NPS under care and treatment for mental illness with four female and 109 males spread across different facilities in the country,” states the document.

“In addition, there are 104 officers with mental illness and psychosis to be assessed by the medical board established by the commission to establish their suitability to continue police duties,” reads the document in part.

The service has also been forced to review policies and regulations on promotions, transfers and discipline, which have been cited as major triggers of mental breakdown among officers.

“In execution of its mandate, the commission has continued to process various human resource matters including promotions, appeals and determination of discipline cases. Delay of these processes is sometimes a trigger for mental breakdown among officers,” says the commission.

“Therefore, the commission is reviewing the policies and regulations on promotions, transfers and discipline to improve the process and make them more efficient,” it adds.

The document, obtained by The Standard, further indicates that the service is seeking better remuneration for the officers, and has since written to the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

Yesterday, NPSC chairperson Eliud Kinuthia and commissioners appeared before the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Administration and National Security to deliberate on efforts being made to prevent further deaths within the service.

Mr Kinuthia was, however, turned away by the committee chaired by Limuru MP Peter Mwathi after Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai snubbed the summons. The committee threatened to sanction Mr Mutyambai for not giving enough attention to the welfare of officers.

The commission notes that there is still a huge gap to address rising cases of mental distress.

“The above situation poses a great challenge to the well-being of members of the police service and operational efficiency in delivering security services. There is a great concern,” states the document.

The commission disclosed that it has deployed counsellors to 31 counties, the Kenya Police, Administrative Police and DCI. The commission recently recruited 16 counsellors, 11 social workers and support staff to provide counselling services to police officers.

“The commission will in the upcoming financial period continue to undertake recruitment of additional counsellors and social workers while undertaking continuous training to enhance their skills and capacity,” states the document that was to be presented by Kinuthia to MPs.

Further, the commission has commenced establishment of regional offices, starting with the Nairobi centre located in Karen, and the second one in Mombasa. The commission plans to have the counsellors deployed to the centres. It is also seeking counselling and wellness centres in Kisumu and Nyeri. It says the services should be decentralised and taken to the regions.

“Toward this end, the commission will require Sh261 million to decentralise this service to the regions in phase one,” states the document.

Cases of suicide, attacks by officers on their colleagues and family members have been rising in the recent past, raising concern about their mental health.