Recently, billboards aimed at combatting corruption have been seen in various places in the country. This is said to be a culmination of efforts between the Community Policing Unit and the Gambia Police Force Planning Unit. This is a commendable act as it highlights the willingness – at least at the administrative level – of the Gambia Police Force to combat corruption. Indeed, this is a good move which can bear fruits if everyone – the police and society at large – take ownership of it and work earnestly for the ultimate good of the nation.
However, Mr President, I think the priority is a little misplaced here. True, we want to fight corruption at all its levels, but we certainly need to put certain measures in place for it to be as fruitful as we wish. A policeman/woman receiving five hundred/one thousand dalasis is definitely a form of corruption but that is at the lowest rung of the ladder. The fight has to be holistic. It is not only about the police officers but also about that civilian who sees giving a bribe to the officer as the fastest way to solve his/her problem.
In order to combat corruption, and indeed reduce the number of crimes being committed in various locations in the country, certain measures need to be taken at all levels of society. The sight of a police officer ready and willing to enforce the law will certainly serve as a deterrent to some nefarious actions by members of the public and thus impact positively on the security level of the country.
It is however true that if the people do not have the required confidence in the police, their presence will not be as effective as it should be. The image of the police in the minds of the masses has to change. The people must be made to understand that the police are here to serve us and not to harass or intimidate us. This is not something that can be achieved by rhetoric alone but by implementing the following suggestions as well.
The first suggestion I have for the improvement of the image of our gallant police officers is to increase their emulgents. It is obvious that if you pay someone less than $100 a month s/he will be susceptible to taking bribes, especially considering the high cost of living in the country. Sometimes, one may come across exceptionally honest, sincere and dedicated wo/men who will stick to their principles but we all know that it is not always easy to come across such people. Being a police officer does not take away the human instincts and thus they, like all others, are prone to fall prey to certain vices. Increasing their pay will not do away with this entirely, but at least it can reduce the urge.
Another thing that needs to be looked into is the issue of equipment. The police need to be given all the equipment they require to do their work properly. These include proper and professional training and incentives. They need vehicles, petrol and all the other tools an officer needs to be effective. Without these, one can hardly blame an officer for not risking his/her life in crisis situations.
We need to focus a little more on the use of modern technology to combat crime. We need to put in place a very effective and professional surveillance system which will see cameras in strategic locations to ensure that even if the police are not everywhere, they will have the ability to view the goings-on in these places.
We must support our police force to do the work we have entrusted them with. It is a collective responsibility, and everyone must play his/her role in it. This country belongs to us all and if it is good, it is good for all. If something goes wrong, we all suffer the consequences. Nonetheless, as the Chief Servant of the nation, you must take the lead on all these issues. For instance, you must address the nation on the security level. People need to be reassured that their government can – and is willing – to tackle crime and make them safe.
Have a Good Day Mr President…