Kenya: Stop Using Social Media to Air Grievances, Hillary Mutyambai Warns Officers

Police officers have been banned from using social media as a platform for airing their grievances or speaking about the challenges that they undergo in the course of their duties. They have also been gagged from talking to the press without permission.

The two warnings issued by Inspector General Hillary Mutyambai, through a memo circulated to all departments, comes on the backdrop of an increase in cases by officers taking to social media after being frustrated by their bosses.

With communication lines within the National Police Service continuing to be constrained, a number of officers have in the recent past opted to air their grievances in the open, often catching their superiors by surprise.

The IG who since his appointment to the position in 2019 has shied away from the media while also reducing interaction between top leadership of the police service with the public hosts a bi-weekly engagement with the public through his Twitter handle.

That weekly interaction too has been hijacked by junior officers who see it as the only chance to be heard directly by the person in charge of the National Police Service since their bosses are either stonewalling them or the bureaucracy is just too much.

"The Inspector General has noted with a lot of concern that officers have developed a habit of using social media to advance their grievances without exhausting the laid down channels which include quality assurance/ complaint and gender offices at the service headquarters or the Internal Affairs Unit," says a memo sent by the Mwangi Wanderi on behalf of the Director of Criminal Investigations.

The memo, which is dated on Wednesday, has quoted Chapter 24, Section 55 of the National Police Service standing orders which prohibits information transmission by officers unless the information is linked to the conduction of official business.

"Sharing information with the media whether verbally or otherwise must be done according to existing regulations," says the memo.

"Serious disciplinary action will be taken against any police officers found abusing the use of social media and sharing information with the press with authority. Please bring this to the attention of all officers and ensure compliance," it further says.

According to Police Standing Orders, only gazetted officers are allowed to speak to the press. Under the current regime however, even these gazetted officers are finding it difficult to communicate with the public as communication is increasingly being centralised at Vigilance House.

At the moment, the National Police Service does not have an official spokesman after Charles Owino was transferred to the Kenya National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons as a Deputy Director in May.

Mr Owino who had been a near constant face in the media before his fortunes began to dwindle within the police service sometime in mid-2019, fell out with his bosses after the IG ordered that all communication must be expressly cleared by him.

This policy of self-preservation seems to have been effectively cascaded downwards.

"It is also an offence against discipline under section 6 W chapter 30 of the Service Standing Orders to disclose or convey any information on police matters without proper authority," says the memo.

The new tough orders by the IG come just three days after a female police officer based at Langata Police Station publicly asked Mr Mutyambai to intervene and save her from her bosses who were frustrating her at work.

Police Constable Swaleh Rehema said on her Instagram account that the Langata Sub County Commander Benjamin Mwanthi and OCS William Matu not only denied her maternal leave but also accused her of deserting duty, meaning her salary will be deducted.

"What I can tell Mutyambai as our boss is that he should really look into our situation as ladies in the police service. We are facing a lot of intimidation and frustrations," said Constable Rehema.

"At times we can't speak out as we are curtailed. He should help us and I know I have spoken on behalf of my colleagues somewhere who are suffering too," she complained.

The officer claimed that she had been made to work non-stop until her delivery date. And even after giving birth she was ordered to report back to work and was transferred to West Park Police Post. On arrival there, she was informed that she had been reported as being absent from work and that her station was actually Lang'ata Police Station.

"The duty roster was changed and I was reposted back to Lang'ata without being informed," complained Constable Rehema.

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