By Lamin Njie
Our police are enduring a general lack of respect from the public. Cases of disrespect toward our police are reaching shocking levels. Focus must be fully on reversing the trend. I’ll be first to back such effort.
I feel upset about it. Last month we had a recalcitrant student of law at the University of The Gambia who was arrested after he took pictures of a team of police officers on patrol. He obstructed them from performing their duty. They asked him to stop, he refused. That this idiot continued his show of disrespect even as he was taken into custody still weighs with me. There are similar other incidents that deserve our sincere denunciation.
The police are here for one simple reason: to keep us safe. This is a hugely important job in any civilized society. Security remains the first and the last essential for any serious government.
While it is right that the reputation of our law enforcement authorities was battered for much of the past two decades, there role has changed since the Barrow government came to power.
I have worked with the police and I can tell you this: it’s decent and law-abiding citizens who make up Gambian police. I can also tell you that these people who have their country at heart. Their service is to their country.
I don’t want to be too patronizing but that they are diligent about their job is the obvious, towering fact. What they might have achieved if they had all what they continue to need must necessarily be a mere matter of speculation.
And about the odds, we know the average Gambian police constable receives 1,500 dalasis salary every month. What is a man who gets D1, 500 monthly salary? A nobody? To some, yes. Yet, these men and women do the job that they do. And they often do it with zeal.
I will misrepresent the facts if I said our police are performing their duty of keeping us safe to our expectation. But that is not because they have refused to do so. That’s down to capacity. They will tell you. If they don’t then a little find will go a long way for you.
Meanwhile, people will tell you how well police and other enforcers of the law are respected in other countries. There’s a general show of respect for the police all the time. In The Gambia, it’s different. People have a general knack for despising law enforcement.
It’s more common among young people. Nowadays, all hell breaks loose if a group of young boys are arrested for smoking cannabis. We have seen it in Bakau. Even women were beating police and drug law enforcement officers as they tried to arrest a group of boys caught with drugs.
We often demand that our rights be protected as citizens. But we often fail to ask ourselves the question, ‘On what basis should our rights be protected?’ Our rights have to be protected, I’ll admit. But it can’t obtain in an environment where there’s a breakdown of law and order.
To every right there’s a responsibility. It’s time we all took responsibility for our actions. You can’t be someone who doesn’t believe in law, someone who goes about disrespecting our police and other law enforcement officers and expect that your rights be protected. That doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t know about you.
The thing is it’s not like before. Our police are now treating us with respect as they go about the demanding, risky job of maintaining law and order. We owe them respect, too.
Lamin Njie wrote from Serrekunda. He can be reached via email at: [email protected]