Anyway, yesterday I was cycling home, and because I like to try as many routes as possible, I used Ngong Road. It was around 7:30 p.m on a Friday, most people were already home, and the traffic was moving along smoothly. Then I saw something that has been on my mind for a really long time, and I slowed down to watch.
If you use Ngong Road often, you’ll know that there’s a police check right before you get to Uchumi Hyper Market. So yesterday, the cops had pulled over two cars, an SUV and a light truck. The drivers seemed relaxed, like they were used to it, and the cop was smiling like he was about to get a text saying he had won the Sportpesa jackpot. The search was routine, the cop flashed his bright light inside the car at the passengers, checked the insurance stickers and waved the SUV on. The truck driver though, he didn’t have it as easy. The cop seemed to want to undo the tarpaulin that covered the back, and the driver didn’t seem to agree. I didn’t see how it ended because I was in a hurry to get home, but when I got to Adams Arcade the truck passed me, tarpaulin still intact. I figured
the cop got his jackpot, they came to an agreement with the driver.
When I got home, I thought to myself, what if that cop had found a bomb or explosive underneath the tarpaulin? Would he even know how TNT looks like? What if he did, and the driver offered him $1,000 to ‘forget’ what he saw? Would the love of country and his competitive salary and benefits outweigh the voices in his head telling him that the shilling is trading at Ksh 102 to a single dollar? Would he radio for back up, or would he wave the guy on?
The starting monthly salary in the American police is Ksh 407,575 , Ksh 412,500 in Germany, Ksh 358,960 in the UK. Add that to housing, insurance and a solid pension. Of course, I am aware that life is more expensive in developed nations, but still, the salaries quoted above are competitive and a fair remuneration. A Kenyan constable earns about Ksh 27-30,000 per month. Let’s say the cop is married, and he wants to live in a decent neighbourhood. There are very few areas where you’ll get a one-bedroomed house for less than Ksh 15,000. Add food, transport, utilities, and you leave your officer with about Ksh 5,000 to spare. He doesn’t have any kids yet, mind you, and I’ve used a teetotaller’s budget. No money to dance the night away with friends and forget what he has to deal with everyday. He also hasn’t spent money supporting his family back home, or here on Nairobi. He also hasn’t saved for a rainy day.
Back to the explosives in the tarpaulin, our $300-a-month constable just got offered 3 month’s salary, and he is confused. He shouldn’t be, he is a cop, cops are good guys he should handcuff the driver and radio the bomb squad.
BUUT he thinks about his pregnant wife, he always wanted her to deliver in a good hospital, where she can eat chapati and have a nurse at her beck and call. He thinks about his younger brothers, who might be sent home anytime now due to lack of school fees. H e thinks about the loan his mother took to bribe the cop so he could join the police college, and how many instalments he has left. He thinks about the Premier League, and how he can finally get to afford a DSTV decoder, he thinks..
Then he sobers up, this are people’s lives at risk!! People will die if he lets this through, people will get maimed, people will be left without loved ones. Then he thinks of his boss, and how fast he would ‘confiscate’ the cash, and free the driver, if $300-man was to take it to him. Then he’d be a marked man. With nobody to protect him, him and his pregnant wife. He thinks of his lifeless body found in a deserted forest, with signs of torture.
Then he thinks about the public, and how much they loathe him, and ‘his kind’. How they protest when thugs are shot, but keep mum when constables, fresh off college, are led like sheep to slaughter in lawless valleys. How they deride their demands for better pay, but complain that the cops are too eager to make an extra buck by laying down their code of ethics.
Then he stops thinking, the driver is getting impatient, traffic is building up, drivers are getting agitated. He gets into the passenger’s seat. Motions to the driver to move it. He alights at the Uchumi bus stop, a thick envelope full of crisp, ten-dollar bills in his night jacket. He doesn’t even mention it to his partner.
Two weeks later, he sees on his new flat screen t.v that a mall in a posh neighbourhood mall has been hit. The police spokesman says investigations are underway, urges the citizenry to exercise caution around ‘suspicious’ individuals, he promises that the culprits will be apprehended. The President asks foreign nations not to be hasty and careless with travel advisories, says the security organs are on top of things. Our $300-dollar-constable is riddled with guilt, he feels like he killed the forty five people in the blast. He cannot talk about it to anyone, and he desperately needs to. A week later, his wife finds his lifeless body. His standard-issue Kalashnikov by his side, brains splattered all over their tiny apartment. The investigating officer suspects a love triangle, and his mother suspects witch craft.
Imagine you are a cop, a woman has come in, eyes swollen, her husband beat her up. She shows you the house, you and your partner are about to arrest the shameless son-of-a-bitch, then you get a call. It’s your commanding officer telling you to stand down, says to leave them alone, ’they’ll sort it out like they usually do’. You walk away slowly, your heart heavier than the ancient AK 47 in your hand. The lady walks back into the house, you can feel the hatred she has for you, but it was her or your wife. Because you’d be transferred to a war-torn area if you dared disobey orders, but she wouldn’t understand, even if you tried explaining.
MAYBE my imagination is too fertile. Maybe this is a fictitious account that will never happen. What I am sure about is that $300 a month, with little or no insurance, obsolete weapons and resources and run down housing is stripping our cops of their dignity. We are killing our cops, we are turning them into money-oriented, heartless machines who only care about a quick buck.
But what do I know?
I’m just a guy with a bike, and no goggles.