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Opinions of Saturday, 29 November 2014

Columnist: Shaban, Abdul Rahman Alfa

Police Corruption and Road Safety

... the watchman in league with the 'thief?'

Police corruptibility has become steeply rooted in the psyche of the Ghanaian. That perception has been buttressed by a top ranking of the service in most corruption indexes over the years.

The service must find a way to deal with it and do so exhaustively.

The Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service are also known as traffic police. Their duty is crucial role of ensuring safety and security of road users. It is basically the enforcement of road traffic regulations to the latter.

The National Road Safety Commission (NRSC's) coordinating role in the road safety gamut is hinged on 4 Es: Engineering and Environment, Education and Publicity, Enforcement and Emergency Medical Services.

These factors have to be fused in a concerted, strategic and systemic effort to achieve the ultimate goal of making our roads safer. Yet, corruption on the part of the key law enforcement body, as the MTTD; undoubtedly has grave repercussions for all road users.

Imagine if a road traffic offence of 5 – 50 penalty units or a jail term, can be narrowed into a roadside negotiation with a police say 50 cedis. Not to talk of the time that it saves the motorist and his ability to drive on without hustle.

The driver may as well continue to overlook the reason for his arrest, knowing well that the next traffic police like most of the others, will most likely take money and allow them to drive on. Without doubt a sad state of affairs.

According to the Road Traffic Regulations, 2012 (LI 2180) in several parts mentions the Police in the capacity of law enforcement. They are primarily the authorities in whose hands exercising of punitive measures are entrusted.

Punitive measures entails the issuance of arrest of offenders, withholding of documents and detaining of persons are all the work of the MTTD officers. Consequently, when they fail to apply the law; there is grave cause for concern.

In Ghana's Soul Takers, we get to see how the police issue station extracts to people and take money even though it should be at no cost. Beyond taking the money, it turns out that most DVLA officers use these illegal extracts to apply for fresh licenses for people who do not have any knowledge of driving.

This increase in the number of people, who access the roads without relevant documentation and expertise, also raises the risk levels of road accidents leading to loss of lives and properties.

There is concern by general society about the spate of recklessness on our roads and many factors are to account for that, for purposes of this write up we attempt to state what extent police corruptibility comes to play.

Some police officers have developed a certain notoriety for demanding and easily accepting bribes when they are so offered. The net effect of that action is the impunity that is exhibited on our roads and its consequence of grief and pain.

But for corruption, some people should not be sitting behind wheels, some cars should not be plying our roads and some people should be serving jail time for recklessness on our roads; these are what corruption bequeaths to us.

A significant factor that more often than not forces members of the public to accede to bribe requests by the police and or offer these bribes, stems from the fact that everyone dreads the legal process that would follow an infraction of the traffic offence.

So instead of allowing the law to take its course, many would rather save themselves the hustle of having to visit the police station and appear before court and to be fined between 5 – 50 penalty units, when they can pay the MTTD personnel less than a quarter of the penalty sum and walk free.

Again, given that as per the road traffic regulation spot fine regime, it is the police who are supposed to issue and to retrieve these fines, it makes bargaining with the personnel somewhat more commonplace and 'mutually' beneficial.

The current police administration under the leadership of Ahmed Alhassan Mohammed has prioritized two main issues; police visibility and cleaning up of the corruption perception. The latter needs grave attention.

The MTTD itself accepts that its officials are perceived as been corrupt and they are as a department doing all it takes to weed out the bad nuts. Those nuts whose action and inaction result in the deepening of the corruption tag.

Its director the very outspoken Anwubutogbe Awuni has stated time without number that even as the service strives to tackle its officers (the bribe takers), the public (the givers) must also stop offering these bribes.

And so between the morally apt stands of putting oneself into 'deeper trouble' (opting for court and paying spot fines) and the professionally disdained acceptance of bribes; I say that our general society needs to stand up to anticorruption in all shapes and forms. It starts with you and I.

Thanks for reading

Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban