Why building police officers’ leadership capacities will boost their emotional stability

Following disturbing series of incidences of police officers either
shooting themselves, their superiors, their spouses or risking the
lives of colleagues and the general public, who they are mandated to
protect, the commissioner of police, Mathew Iteere, did the right
thing to commission a team of experts to determine within two months
matters affecting the morale and emotional well-being of officers from
the rank of constables to chief inspectors. Only that whereas the
emphasis of the team’s focus should naturally be on the welfare of the
cutting edge, frontline officers, the team’s terms of reference must
have depth and should not have been limited, and should extend to all
members of the service and their work environment. As it is, it might
send the wrong message as a public relation exercise, underlining a
power distance, upstairs, down stairs, ‘them and us’ dichotomy way of
viewing issues.

It has been argued many times at many places that “insufficient
budgetary allocation, poor working conditions, equipments, long
working hours and lack of counseling” are some of the causes of stress
among officers and thus emotional instability leading to shooting
incidences. Whereas this could be partly true, the question is, in
Africa, Asia and America, dear Kenyans, where is budgetary allocation
for any public department is “sufficient”, working conditions,
equipments and working hours are top flight and most ideal? Like the
weather everyone is unfairly blaming the Treasury! We should be
mindful of the fact that scarcity and inadequacy of resources is a
universal law of economics, more so in this part of the world.  We
should know better.

In institutional management, the single greatest determinant in
personnel motivation, pride, loyalty, team work, enthusiasm and
therefore health is leadership. More than anything else, we need to
build strong leadership capacities of all ranks of the service, from
the desk officer to the county boss, who may be called County
Commissioner of police under the reformed structure underway. Why
would young, educated, trained police officers, full of live in a
peace time loving society and country go berserk, shooting their
colleagues, the members of the public and eventually ,not all,  turn
the guns  onto themselves? Apparently these officers did not feel they
were part of a team, a system.  Rather they appear to have been
neglected, felt lonely, without friends and no one to listen to and
act on their emotional needs. They did not respect and love their
seniors. Why?

As history confirms and they say in the military, “there are no bad
troops: only bad leaders”. Senior police officers must partly take
responsibilities for what is happening to their officers under their
watch. Police officers, just like their counterpart public officers,
are expected to be men and women with ambition and strong belief in
Kenya and the goodness of their loving communities. Stress is defined
as a response to excessive physical or psychological demand on person.
The sources of it could be from outside the police service, within the
police structure, immediate colleagues or the individual officers

Good leadership can for sure moderate the effects these factors have
on the morale, performance and emotional stability of the police
officers. One way of enriching and renewing the leadership capacities
of the police service is through international training and exchange
programs in selected countries such as UK, Australia, USA and South
Africa on bilateral arrangements. Every two years a few middle ranking
officers could be selected competitively for such programs and
training. The commissioner should be supported in his good initiative.