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Police score low on professionalism in new Afrobarometer report

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By Omar Bah

The latest Afrobarometer report on the Gambia Police Force issued last Friday revealed that only 29 percent of Gambians believe that the police “often” or “always” act professionally.

According to the report, a significant proportion of citizens who had dealings with the police say they had to pay a bribe while 45 percent of Gambians say “most” or “all” police officers are corrupt.

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The report revealed that a rising share of Gambians say they felt unsafe in their neighbourhoods and homes at least “several times” during the past year and that poor citizens are more likely to be affected by such insecurity than their better-off counterparts.

It stated that among citizens who asked for help from the police during the past year, 42% say it was difficult to get the assistance they needed, and 24% say they had to pay a bribe while among those who encountered the police in other situations, 19% say they had to pay a bribe to avoid problems.

The report also highlighted that four in 10 Gambians (41%) say the police “often” or “always” stop drivers without good reason while somewhat fewer say they routinely use excessive force in dealing with protesters (36%) and criminal suspects (33%).

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It added that six in 10 (61%) say the police are “never justified” in using force in managing protests and a majority (56%) say the police at least “sometimes” discriminate against citizens based on people’s political affiliation.

The report further revealed that theft and break-ins (56%), drug or alcohol abuse (19%), and robbery (10%) are the most frequently cited threats to safety.

Government

According to the report, 73% of citizens pan the government’s performance on reducing crime, a 31-percentage-point increase since 2018.

The report said 73% of Gambians give negative assessments of the government’s performance on reducing crime, an increase of 31 percentage points since 2018.

“Citizens say better salaries (29%), improved training (20%), and better equipment (18%) are key interventions needed by the police to improve security in communities,” it added.

About 53 percent of the respondents in the survey were men, 48% women, 58% in urban and 42% in rural areas, 45% formal education, 10% primary, 29 secondary, 16% post-secondary, 98% Muslim and 2% of Christian.

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