Sunday, 11 May 2014

Linda Okello’s Skirt is about more than uniforms

It took just one lascivious or maybe just mischievous photo-journalist to bring attention to the entire world the ample blessings of a lady traffic police officer in her skirt. For all the right reasons, Linda Okello has been the focus of attention in the media, although I am sure that by now she really would rather everyone go away and focus on their own behinds.
The thing about her skirt is that it fit her rather well. In fact, according to Grace Kaindi the Deputy Inspector General of Police, the skirt fit her so well that it may have been adjusted; something considered a breaking of the rules. Fortunately for Linda, Inspector General David Kimaiyo assured a parliamentary committee that no disciplinary action would be taken against her.
The idea that police uniform can be such a hot topic speaks volumes as to the mindset of most Kenyans. For starters, discussing the assets of a police officer simply underscores how far down the intellectual scale we are sliding as a nation. The fact of the matter is the central issue surrounding police uniforms is not how the officers fill them out, but how often they are issued with said uniforms.
The police service is undergoing reforms, but sad to say, these reforms thus far have not taken into consideration simple issues like how many uniforms are distributed and how often. Let’s face it; we can have no pride in a service where the policemen don’t even have sufficient clothing that fits well and at the same time is a smart representation of the sort of service and national pride we expect of officers.
If the police don’t even get uniforms that can fit them “decently” how can we expect the police to deal with terrorists or organized crime? We often forget something so crucial about our police; that the servicemen and women are essentially ordinary everyday people like us. They aren’t rich middle class civil servants. These are people who live among us and are part of our society.
Isn’t it incumbent upon us to discuss more than Linda’s body? Let’s talk about what support she and her colleagues get if she can’t get sufficient uniform. Let’s talk about the fact that members of the service are expected to provide protection for millions while they themselves number in the mere tens of thousands. Let’s talk about the fact that though we do have a working police line to call for help, the police officer we expect to help us doesn’t have sufficient resources to be able to respond adequately to each and every call for help.
Let’s really talk about police reforms. So far, the restructuring of the service has simply created new dispensation at the higher levels, much of this dispensation has certainly not trickled down to the lower cadres. You would think that the higher ranking officers, having had to climb up through the ranks under such difficult circumstances would also be willing to engage reforms that improves the working conditions of officers across the board.
I.G David Kimaiyo has insisted that we are in a war against terror and that we must win that war at all costs. But what exactly has been done for the officers who are to conduct that war? I believe it is incumbent upon the Inspector General and the Independent Police Oversight Authority to ensure that the officers are fully equipped in every sense of the word so as to be successful.
We lament the sort of brutality that the police officers use in “screening” illegal immigrants at Kasarani, and by extension we complain relentlessly about corruption in the service. As a nation, we surely can do more than just complain. We can provide avenues for these issues to be addressed with finality and we can do that as easily as we discussed Linda Okello’s “tight security”.
We talk about corruption as though it is something that happened in the past, and expect that by putting up posters and signs that say, “This is a corruption free zone”, like magic the Service or institution has cleaned up its record.
But if an officer cannot even receive uniforms in a regular manner so as to be able to have her measurements adjusted as she grows horizontally, then we have a serious problem.
We cannot expect police officers to function effectively if they don’t have enough uniforms, if they are limited by the very clothing that bears the sort of authority they wield. They say the clothes do not make the man, but if the officer can’t even get enough clothes then it is no wonder that some officers desecrate that uniform by being corrupt, and sometimes criminal in their actions. In Kenya, the clothes do indeed make the officer, and a lack of uniform tells us all what sort of officers we have in the service.

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