This is how police officers are hired. The first qualification isn’t education, but the mandatory run around the field. People die during that run. The fast runners are short-listed for teeth inspection; you need all your 32 teeth intact, to chew bribes and swallow as fast. Brown teeth aren’t welcome.
Once the select few who can run fast and have all teeth intact have been identified, their academic papers are checked. Emotional Intelligence isn’t a requirement. When the recruits arrive at Kiganjo, their trainers refer to them, in what is meant to be a derogatory manner, as “Raia”, meaning Mwananchi, and for the remaining period that they’re in training they will be called Raia until they graduate. Raia is the people they will be serving and they can’t be them. That’s why police officers are housed inside police stations, away from the people they work for. In any case, their poor pay cannot allow them to rent houses anyway.
After graduation, the best place to work is Traffic department — the eating zone — where cars are viewed as cows to be milked at will. The rest are assigned to normal police duties that include walking around with menacing G3’s and AK47’s.
But the recruits didn’t get enough bullets to shoot at the range in Kiganjo. They don’t get enough shooting time to become proficient in those guns they carry. Police training is basic at best and most officers will die without ever going back to the training college for musketry refresher courses. That is why suspects are shot 18 times.
The officers will be assigned to a police station where, if it’s like Pangani Police Station, the illegal Somalis are daily cash ATMs, or to a remote town to count donkeys. Once you become a police officer, there are no drug tests and you can be alcoholic, smoke weed or chew khat while at work. You can also grow as fat as you like.
The only time the Kenya Police want you to be fit is in training college, but now you can get fat while your brain slowly dies, because reading while serving as a police officer can cost you a transfer. Your Class Seven dropout boss will deem you a threat if they see you with a book.
Police housing is a problem and you will be assigned a room with two other officers in prefabricated metal huts (those round mabati houses that look like cooking pots).
You will live in a degraded environment and your only interaction with the public is when you’re attending to their problems. You will pick bodies from accident and murder
scenes. You don’t have a union to fight for you, or counselors to help when you suffer emotional breakdowns.
Before long, you are a poorly paid, frustrated and depressed nut case walking around with a fully loaded assault rifle, assigned to protect a land grabber, a drug dealer, a murderer or rapist. You quickly learn that a moneyed Kenyan can get away with anything.
What is my point? Unless there are true reforms in the police service, where the corrupt ones are fired and the fat ones told to shape up or ship out, you will be shot and killed during peaceful protests. Kenya police shoot more innocent people in this country than gangsters do, you know.
This article was first published at my weekly column in the Nairobian on 6th October 2017.