A couple of weeks ago, as I rushed to a client meeting across town in the mid morning, I landed on the wrong side of the law.
Being impatient with the traffic build-up along Uhuru Highway from Museum Hill getting into town, I took the outer lane which was moving and on reaching the University Way roundabout, my attempts to get back to the inner lane landed me right in front of a police officer on the other side.
The officer politely notified me of my offence and asked that I accompany him to the station. I humbly obliged and in five minutes, I was walking up the stairs of the Central Police Station to the Traffic section.
We were in one of the offices where the bookings happen and the feelings I had of disappointment, annoyance and self pity turned into sympathy for the police officers. To call their work environment squalid would be a gross understatement.
For a moment, I totally forgot that I was the one in trouble.
The office we were in was barely 8ft by 10ft. It was filled up with a big table and two benches on either side, one supposedly their seat and the other for offenders like us. The room was crowded and I didn’t get to see much.
It was while I was paying my cash bail in the second office that I noted the rot within the structure. The room was still small. It was partitioned by a dirty cabinet, presumably to create an office for a senior officer.
The ceiling was collapsing, wall paint peeling off and parquet floor completely rotten. The room was stuffy, filled up with old and seemingly useless files collecting dust. A sickening stench was strong, probably from the toilets outside, or the detention cells downstairs.
Yet the police officer serving me was not only polite but also cheerful, lecturing me on the importance of being patient while driving and that it would save me time, money and in extreme cases, save a life. He proceeded to advise me on how I can easily and quickly dispense with the case in court the following day to avoid more time wastage.
This police officer would later leave this filthy office and head to a leaky hovel, a tiny shark that could be made of steel, probably shared with others, and this is the place he calls home.
This situation is replicated in many other areas around the country. In my county, the most distinctive feature of police housing is the rusty hexagonal steel structures which dot most of their camps. They live here with their families.
So, is this neglect of police habitation official government policy or simply sheer contempt of the men and women who have been tasked with ensuring that we are secure?
Such conditions may not justify any acts of corruption by the force. But they surely demoralize the police and are definitely a push factor for them to make that extra coin. In my opinion, we are simply getting the dividends of exactly what we have invested.
I strongly feel for the lone officer standing in the rain, scorching sun or cold every morning and evening to ensure traffic flows smoothly. Many others put their lives on the line in the dark alleys in the deep of the night to ensure that we are safe. Truth is majority of the police officers are truly honest and selfless Kenyans who deserve a life full of respect and dignity.