The only ugly thing wasn’t physical. It was symbolic. Headed to the mainland, we saw a cop pocket a bribe so brazenly, he didn’t even hide it, just took it like a conductor would from a paying passenger. It made me think, as the matatu sped from the palm-tree lined interior with huts, to the brick and mortar that announces that you’ve gotten to the ferry. I was of the opinion that yes, bribery is wrong but you can not blame the police officer for taking the money. In an ideal world, the officer would be immediately suspended, possibly even fired from his job. Kenya though is not an ideal situation, and I thought that what the police man did was wrong, but understandable.
My premise is that you cannot pay an officer, who has so much authority, so little and expect that he won’t collect bribes. Why can’t he make investments like the rest of the other honest cops and live off that some ask? Because even we know what exactly 30,000 can get you on the stock market, if you have anything left over after paying off your bills. Just like Moha Jicho Pevu, most Kenyans, don’t dislike corruption, we just don’t like that it doesn’t involve us, but the moment we get to a situation that declares us to stand for the right but difficult thing, we side with what is easy, and mostly wrong.
That is why in developed nations, public servants are paid well, and have good pensions, because it’s a sacrifice, and when inadequately resourced, especially financially, it can ruin societies. We can not, can not pay grown men with such authority such salaries, and get shocked that they are taking bribes. Granted, high salaries don’t instantaneously translate into angelic officers, but it would give grounds for dismissal. That cops attend to hit and run accident bodies, arson attacks, suicides and mostly interact with the public only when we steal each others phones, rape each other, fight each other, and put their mental health and lives in danger by shootings, means their jobs are harder than a lot of ours. This cant be repaid, it’s a noble profession but the least we can do is make their lives comfortable, that they don’t have to worry about PTSD, and health insurance and affording rent in decent neighbourhoods.
Anything other than a well-resourced police force, is a lie we will be telling ourselves. We cannot arrest corruption out of our police, we can only resource it out of them, good salaries, health care, remove those ugly, ineffective AK-47s from their backs and give them housing or housing allowances. People kept saying doctors don’t deserve good salaries, yet Cuban doctors are getting more than what our doctors were asking for, because even when you go to Gikomba, and you want nice jeans, you have to pay for them. We cannot demand Rolls Royce Wraith service from our police and we give them Tata Nano (World’s cheapest car) service. Also, you can’t give the argument that such a corrupt police force doesn’t deserve a raise in pay and resources, because corruption stems from poor pay. How many of us who bash corrupt cops would sling a gun for hours, and take home 30,000 bob all with the threat of getting shot, contracting pneumonia, walking long hours and being called to pick up dead, sometimes, decomposing bodies?
The push should be to better terms for the cops, then sack the ones who still ask for bribes. Granted there are rotten cops out there, but majority are very reasonable people after you pay them off (now, now let’s not pretend we have never paid off cops), which shows they aren’t monsters, they are just hungry, and we need to push for them to get better terms. So they can afford to go to Lamu and Diani and Lwang’ni Beach and they can swim with their families without spending money that was given to them in curses and tears. Then this country will be better.