‘6% of police officers commit suicide a year after retirement’

Some of the housing units for police officers at Kira Road Police Station in Kampala on June 7, 2023. Officers in Tororo say accommodation at the police housing units is not conducive. PHOTO/ ABUBAKER LUBOWA.

What you need to know:

  • Low pay and stress are some of the issues blamed for the suicides.

At least six percent of police officers who retire from the Force commit suicide within the first year of their retirement, statistics provided by a team of medical doctors from the Force have revealed. 

“A study has indicated that when you (police officers) retire and leave, about six out of 100 end up committing suicide within one year,” Assistant Superintendent of Police Enock Kabanda, the Wamala Region police surgeon, said while addressing officers at Tororo Central Police Station in Tororo District on Tuesday.

Mr Kabanda, who is also a doctor by profession, has been leading a team of officers on a counselling mission to address issues of mental health among officers countrywide. 

He attributed the suicidal cases to high levels of stress among officers.
Mr Kabanda said money-generating projects targeting police officers should be integrated into the community. 

Despite the purported low pay the officers were complaining about, he said it is imperative that they carry out some investments and construct at least a “simple house” while still in the Force.

“We are aware that most of our officers don’t invest any money and never go back (to the village) to construct a house; so, when you are told to go home (retire), you have nowhere to go,” he added.

He further noted that because of the “total disconnect” most officers have with their communities back home, they become “lonely and isolated”, triggering stress and suicide.

Mr Kabanda said he has spoken with the Inspector General of Police, Mr Martin Okoth Ochola, and agreed that every year; officers take a one-month mandatory leave to get away from the “stressful work of the Force”.

Dr Kabanda said some senior officers ignore the mental health problems of their juniors.
Dr Kabanda said police are operating a mental clinic in Nsambya, a Kampala suburb, where officers who have mental health issues get treatment free of charge.

During the session, several police officers agreed that they were suffering from stress, with many citing poor pay as the cause.

One policeman said he was promoted from the rank of constable to corporal two years ago but still earns the same salary as before.

However, Mr Dickson Ambikiire, the Tororo Central Police Station officer-in-charge (OC), said he was surprised that the officer was promoted but his salary was not enhanced.

“I was waiting for information from the office so that a formal report can be made to the salary department at police headquarters in Naguru, Kampala,” Mr Ambikiire said.

One officer asked the team to make a budget on how they would spend the Shs470,000 monthly salary paid to police constables.

In the end, it was deemed “too little” to cater for school fees, medical bills, water, rent, and provide other basics for themselves and family members.

Another officer raised the challenge of accommodation, saying they were sharing uniports yet some officers have families and, therefore, cannot enjoy their marriage rights as families are only separated by a curtain. 

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a fire destroyed at least seven housing units of police officers attached to Kira Road Police Station.

Sources said the fire broke out around 10am when many policemen had reported for duty.
About 100 senior and junior police officers stay at the barracks.

At least three families share a house in most city police barracks, others who left without houses construct their own makeshift houses within the barracks.

The Kampala Metropolitan Police deputy spokesperson Luke Owoyesigyire said the fire was a result of a burning charcoal stove which was left unattended in one of the houses.

 “We are going to investigate this fire outbreak more and communicate to our officers on fire safety measures and how they can be controlled within police barracks,” Mr Owoyesigyire said.

Back in Tororo, Mr Moses Mugwe, the Bukedi South Region Police spokesperson, said the counselling session is one of several planned throughout the country and has so far covered 30 districts.

Mr Mugwe added that the police top management is using such outreaches to identify challenges affecting the officers and will use the findings to seek remedies.

Crime report

The 2022 Annual Crime Report by the police stated that at least eight officers committed suicide, with seven using their own guns, and one by hanging.

The suicide incidences were recorded at Kireka Police Barracks, Nsambya, Mubende, Pallisa, and Ibanda, among others.