Stop Harassing Me … I Don’t Accept Bribes

TRUTH is bitter, it is said. And truthfully, at least in Ghana, it is the public that begs or harasses the Police to accept bribes from them. But we have never heard them say “we don’t accept bribes”.

In fact the Ghanaian experience is that the Police deliberately create conditions to prompt motorists to offer them bribes as a way out of their predicament. It is far cheaper.

Take the case of the spot fines hinted at last year: The penalty units were set so high in Cedi terms that, if we recall rightly, a simple offence as driving on the shoulder could cost a motorist as much as GH¢60.

And it was topped with a cumbersome procedure of payment that would require the offending driver to stop working for hours.

The Chronicle is heartened to know that IGP Mohammed Ahmed Alhassan and the Police Administration have realized the utmost harm that the Police’s predilection for bribes has done to their image and have cast about for ways to polish it.

And following a self-assessment that established “excessive use of force, extortion on traffic duties, demand for money for bail and meddling in civil cases”, the Police Administration has launched a year-long “Public Confidence Re-affirmation Campaign” to restore its image.

As part of the campaign an Independent Police Complaints Commission, a civilian oversight body within the Ministry of Interior, would be set up to “address indiscipline and accountability challenges” in the Ghana Police Service.

And during the campaign Police personnel would wear armbands boldly inscribed with “I do not accept bribes”, while the public would be inundated with flyers urging them to promise: “I will not bribe the Police”.

There will also be a National Inspection Team that would, among other objectives, “investigate allegations of misconduct and corruption made against Police officers”.

The Chronicle seizes this opportunity to congratulate IGP Alhassan and the Police Administration for their boldness in admitting that their image is at its nadir, if not totally gone. More grease to their elbows.

However, we disagree with some of their assumptions. First, we do not accept that it is a “limited number of our personnel” that engage in “shameful and disgraceful” acts. Not so, Mr. IGP, please! Unless we gauge the size of the problem properly, we will end up applying cosmetic solutions to it to no avail.

The Motor Transport and Traffic Unit is not a small section of the GPS. And virtually everybody inside there has, at one time or the other, extorted money from offending drivers.

And this extortion happens on a daily basis on all roads across the length and breadth of the Ghana, under the noses of Inspectors who pretend ignorance of what is going on but take the largest share of the proceeds …

Also extortion for bail and other reliefs that place in all police stations across the country. How many of them do we have? Even if only the personnel of the crime units pocket the money so extorted, they are not a “limited number”.

Yes, “as responsible citizens” we will inform the Police about the “misconduct of their personnel” but the expectation that the informer would “pursue all complaints to their logical conclusion” could amount to crying for the moon.

In these trying times in which making ends meet is almost impossible, no one would find the time to be reporting to the NIT on a daily basis to be tossed about by officers bent on showing esprit de corps for their beleaguered colleagues.

To really ensure that the “era when we acted with impunity is over”, the IGP would need to consider other options of enforcement, including the use of undercover operatives.

Mr. IGP you are on the right track. But please fine-tune the counter measures!