By Modou Lamin Faye
Bribing law enforcement or government officials is a misconduct that undermines the respect and confidence that the public have for the law and any government institutions. It could also disjoint a structured system that is in place by opening doors for selective enforcement, poor investigations, coercion during an interrogation, which could lead to false imprisonment, encourages organised crimes or other illegal activities such as traffic violations, drug/human trafficking, tax invasions, prostitution, abuse of power, or public offices.
Police briberies have been a long-time issue in The Gambia to the point where it is a norm or ok thing to do. Police are openly soliciting and accepting briberies in exchange to look the other way for drivers to continue violating traffic rules and safety regulations.
These briberies do sometimes result in city ordinances and criminal codes not being enforced, taxpayers and investors not effectively being protected from criminals that rip them off by the police and cause the government to lose revenue. I know some would use the excuse of the police not earning enough salary to feed their families or problems, but may I highlight the fact that there is no reason or excuse as to why law enforcement or government officials should be compromised or use their badge to accept/solicit briberies. Every law enforcement officer should have known what they are signing up for and how much they would be making when they took the oath of honour to protect the constitution and the people of The Gambia, which basically states that, they will not betray the public trust, badge, character, integrity, and will always have the courage to hold themselves and everyone else (including family, supervisors, department leaders, and friends) accountable for actions that the law deem illegal or threatens national security/public safety. So where in that does it say that law enforcement or government officials can accept/solicit bribes if their salaries are not enough?
Police officers or government officials should always continue to maintain the highest ethical standards and uphold the values of the public and offices they serve. Being a good/humble Muslims or Christians isn’t about praying every day and giving out charities. It is also about doing right by the people you serve even when it doesn’t align with your personal interest. Security leaders such as the Interior, Justice, and Defense ministers have a huge role to play and help deter law enforcement/government officials from undermining the integrity and the trust of our criminal justice system. The interior minister is the face of our police force, which means that he is entrusted that position to make sure that police officers and other internal security personnel are taken cared of with better pay, incentives, and other benefits.
There are so many simple structured systems that can be put in place where police departments across the country can legally generate revenue for the government up to D105,000 a day and D37,800,000 a year or more than that to help them with bump police pay, proper training and police equipment to better serve and protect the public, feeding and sheltering the police/military in their various camps instead of always reaching out to other countries through their ambassadors to take care of our security problems. A leader with a dependent mindset is an insult to any company, institution, government, administration, or country. A great leader would fight for his/her people to get the best treatment and support that they deserve by working with their teams to better understand their needs.
In other to address and fix the issue of bribery that has become a norm and restore the public trust, respect for our law and criminal justice system, the interior minister should step-up and create a reform plan that will include but not limited to training the security sector on how accepting bribes could impact our criminal justice system, making sure that everyone in authority and people offering these briberies to our officers are held accountable (not just for political reasons) by collaborating with the justice minister and news media, conducting random inspections, and making sure departments that are responsible for police administrative investigations do their jobs. It is about that time that we start valuing and respecting our security sector because they are the ones that keep us safe and making sure that our assets are protected.
I urge every Gambian to get in the habit of reading the fine print on any document especially on job offers to help eliminate our famous Gambian excuse of “hawma ko-won” or the police are not getting paid enough. In other words, ignorance of the law is no excuse for anybody.