Kenya’s Police Reform: Police officers ‘told to buy their own uniforms’

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The cat must not steal a piece of fish, but the owner of the cat must not put the fish near the cat.

 How does the above proverb explain the dilemma facing Kenya as it confronts the shortage of police officers’ uniforms amid the country’s police reform? In a lot of ways.

It has been reported that some police officers in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, have been forced to be buying their uniforms from civilian tailors, following an alleged instruction from the authorities that the officers must report to work on new police uniforms, albeit lack of supplies of the new uniform.

According to the report, the affected police officers were allegedly instructed to wear the new uniforms starting on Monday. Some local media reported that some police officers were turned back from work after they arrived wearing their old uniform.

Despite the low salary of the police in Kenya, some officers alleged that they were directed to civilian tailors where they could order and pay for the uniform out of their pockets. The tailors reportedly ask as much as 5,000 Kenyan shillings ($50) for a pair of uniform. It is not clear whether the National Police Service will reimburse the affected police officers for the purchase of the uniforms; and if yes, when.

Neither the National Police Service nor the interior ministry has responded to the reports or verified the claims. Ironically, the new police uniforms were part of the Police reforms, initiated in 2018. The purpose of the reform is to create better welfare, integrity, accountability and minimize corruption within the agency. To achieve the goal, Kenyan authorities must not force the police to engage in corrupt and illegal activities in the process of trying to recover the money they spent on their uniform. That would be a sad irony.  

The Kenyan government must bear in mind that it is a good idea to prevent the cat from stealing a piece of fish, however, the owner of the cat must not put the fish near the cat.