Welfare: Amid low salaries and poor welfare, hundreds are deserting the police, with some becoming boda boda riders
At least 500 police officers have deserted the force in the space of two years, The Observer has learnt.
This information is contained in a recent internal report by the police directorate of human resource development and management. According to sources, majority of deserters are low-ranking officers at the level of Inspector of Police (IP) to police constable and have joined the boda boda business in the city.
“A boda boda rider earns a lot compared to a police officer at the rank of inspector,” said one senior police officer who didn’t want to go on record.
To curb the trend, insiders have intimated that Hajji Moses Balimoyo, the force’s human resource development and management director, has instructed all unit commanders to arrest any deserter.
Balimoyo confirmed this to The Observer but didn’t give any details. “It is true some police officers have deserted the force,” he said before referring us to police spokesperson for more information.
Efforts to reach Andrew Felix Kaweesi, the spokesperson, were futile and Emilian Kayima, the Kampala Metropolitan Police (KMP) publicist, declined to comment, saying it was not his docket. “I cannot comment on this story because it is national. So, you must look for the police spokesperson,” said Kayima.
In October, a list of wanted renegade officers was briefly pinned on the noticeboard of police headquarters in Naguru but was removed for fear it would leak in the media.
“The number [of deserters] could be as high as 1,000 officers because almost 100 officers leave the force every month,” said another source from the police human resource department.
An officer from the police operations department who preferred anonymity said junior officers abandon work due to the risky working conditions as well as low remuneration. “These officers are the ones who go on the frontline fighting rioters. They are always on ground whenever there is an emergency such as demonstrations, accidents, and strikes at universities, among others,” he said.
The source added that these officers are sometimes injured in the scuffles. A director within the force who declined to be mentioned told The Observer that the high desertion rate is a result of poor welfare.
“The welfare in the force is very bad and many police officers will desert unless it is improved,” he said.
He added that several benefits for low-ranking officers were recently scrapped yet their salaries were never increased. “Officers used to have free food, accommodation, transport to work and allowances for extra work. These offers would motivate them but all of them were scrapped,” he added, before noting that even some senior officers have deserted.
The monthly salary of a constable cannot go beyond Shs 300,000 and these officers pay school fees for children, pay rent and buy food only to remain with nothing.
“To assure you, that welfare in the force is bad and affecting everybody; we have spent almost six months without fuel. How do you expect us to do police work without fuel?” said the director. “Our fuel budget was cut by Shs 18bn and much of police work is stuck. How can you tell a police officer to go upcountry without fuel and night allowance? We only operate in Kampala where we use less fuel.”
He added that fuel is now handled by only four directorates: the office of inspector general of police, director of logistics, engineering and fire.
“I’m a director and we used to have fuel cards for our departments but they were all closed. Now we get fuel from [Geoffrey] Bangirana [director of logistics] and it is always less,” he said.
He added that the situation in the force is dire and that recently, National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) cut off water lines after police failed to pay the bills worth Shs 6bn.
“There is no water in all police barracks and the officers have been forced to buy a jerrycan at Shs 500 to Shs 1000 which is very expensive for them,” he added.