Monday, January 13, 2014

The unexplained cash revelations make defending the police more difficult

By Muthoni Thang'wa
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Our bubble has been burst – irreparably. Many members of the public have been strong supporters of the police force. In any argument, we defend the police and the difficult job they find themselves called upon to do. Think about it, all those unruly drivers end up on some police officers desk, those crazy parents who beat their children senseless over ten bob too.

A police officer does not have the option of crossing the road when they see a drunk, their job calls on them to arrest the drunk, accommodate them until sanity returns and probably release them with no charges as by the time the drunk has sobered up, there will be dead bodies to collect in some accident, suicide, homicide, terrorist attack etc.

We have seen and read of the living conditions, pay and working conditions of the police in the media,  and often asked how they can be expected to do better. The police have to deal with all those things that the rest of us wish away in carrying out Utumishi kwa wote. And wote often means the worst quadrant of society. The few who are not in ‘public service’ are in the private service of politicians. This is the same lot that beats up police officers. When they are not beating them up, the police are protecting them from being beatings and shootings – real or imagined.

When the police manage to get the bad guys and take them to court, they lack experienced prosecutors to win cases. They are often so overloaded with new crimes that details of the old cases get lost in the load and with them, justice – or so it looked from where the rest of us were standing. The police could not win in my books and I completely sympathized.

The on-going, televised, police vetting has changed all that. It is shocking. Who are those people in police uniforms? Some are so arrogant they treat the panel like a group of errant chicken thieves filling reports at a police post in a part of the country where bandits rule. Others are so badly spoken that they put their standard three teachers to shame in their manner of expression, while others whine like little children, resorting to all sorts of antics including the option of death should they be found unworthy of kutumikia wote.

The worst thing is that this is supposed to be the top brass of the force. If this is the cream what do the dregs look like? The most common unresolved issue is loads of unexplained cash in bank accounts. So what was that about poor pay, housing etc? They must have been laughing breathless at the paltry 80,000 the judicial service commission was drawing as sitting allowances.

Airing the vetting was a bad idea. It is bad for the rich – the police have more liquid cash than they do. It must make them very uneasy, no? It is bad for the poor, who are under the illusion that the police are in with their lot and hence likely to understand their problems. It is bad for university demonstrations; no one wants to stone a rich, powerful  person.

It is bad for criminal justice; criminals may claim money stolen from cash heists is a gift from unknown friends or tips from the banking industry. It is bad for the national psyche – the public expects the police to be wise, overworked, underpaid professionals doing their best under every bad situation.

It might be easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for the vetted to be found worth of public service.

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