The National Police Service in Kenya threatens occasionally to take part in go-slows to pressure the government to increase their salaries. Some of these go-slows bear fruits while others do not materialize.
They complain often about the government underpaying them and giving them minimal safety in the line of duty. This has reduced their working morale severely.
It would tempt one to think that the annual increase in security budget correlates with police performance. Moreover, it would make one think that it will increase their professionalism and working capability. On the contrary, the reverse is the case.
Insecurity has plagued Kenya and it continues to be a problem. We have faced brutal terrorism in the past which has claimed many innocent lives. Criminal gangs like Gaza, Super Power Gang in Eastleigh, and Mungiki still thrive in the country. They wreck terror and havoc on the citizens of this country.
The national government continues to increase the budget for the police service in Kenya every year. Much of the money goes towards material things such as modernizing the service and buying better equipment for them. Some of the money also caters for things like police medical scheme.
However, some police officers rubbish off these allocations. They say that the national government should prioritize their salaries first. They often accuse the government of failing to honour the agreement to increase their salaries.
It is evident the police service in Kenya does not care about big security budgets. Their concern is how the government will cater for their morale to improve their performance. Poor pay is a stumbling block towards the police implementing the security laws and policies. Like one police officer says, they do not need better vehicles and equipment without better remuneration.
“Artillery and equipment may assist, but you cannot fight inside an armoured vehicle when you are hungry. they will be useless…”
A Kenyan Police Officer
The present and past governments have neglected and overlooked the matter on police pay. Their concern is increasing the security budget at the expense of motivation for the police officers.
The government should shift from concentrating on material aspects of security and focus on police motivation. It should work out ways to improve the performance, morale, and working environment for the police.
The police service in Kenya tops the list of corrupt institutions many times partly due to poor pay. They earn peanuts yet much of their earnings goes towards deductions and taxes. Many of them have families and dependents which strains the little they have left. Not to forget the expenses they have to meet towards basic needs and other wants.
They work in extreme hardship in some parts of the country only to earn meagre salaries and allowances. This is embarrassing and demoralizing.
All this shows that the government should take the motivation of police officers seriously. The motivation is not only about money but also other issues like improvement of skills and housing.
The government should revise the pay of police officers upwards. It should also recognize, educate, communicate, and treat them fairly. It should revise and upgrade the police curriculum to align it with emerging issues in the society and the security sector. The police require an upgrade of skills to do their work efficiently and effectively.
Recognition considers appraisal and rewards based on merit. Communication should be positive and to the point. The media can assist with communication by creating an image of the police service in Kenya that can restore confidence to the public (but not PR or propaganda).
Fair treatment is ensuring there is no bias, favouritism, and disparity. For example, by:
- guaranteeing fair administrative action if a police officer errs; and
- Ensuring the working standards do not favour some officers over others.
Ultimately, the people will judge the government by the way it protects its citizens. Security is the most important political good that the state should provide to its citizens. Therefore, the taxes allocated for security should also focus on improving the morale and motivation of the police service in Kenya.