To serve and to protect
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When I was younger, I did not have any real thoughts concerning the police. All I knew and cared to know was that they were the people who were there to protect me and take me home if I managed to get myself lost.

Granted that even now that remains a possibility, this was a serious concern. That aside, I saw them as the people who would arrest me if I broke the law and I think that that was the same view my childhood friends had of them too. A conversation I had with my four-year-old last year however, has caused me to realise that for children now, police are not abstract people who exist to “serve and protect.”

In their minds, the police are there to do quite the opposite. When I tried to convince her otherwise, I felt myself losing steam to continue the defense because if anything, our history and current events continue to show us how the majority of those on the force have no interest in protection and upholding of the law. As sad as it is that that is how children now view the police, given that they are legitimate good ones out there, too often we end up with corrupt officers whose only interest is their self.

The police force is among the oldest institutions in the world. During its formation, we did not have the same system of appointment of officers as we do now. Back then, to be a police officer meant that you had to be elected by the powerful to serve. This of course saw many persons angling themselves up to the powerful in hopes of becoming an officer because it was a lucrative job. Once they secured this role, they were expected to keep the powerful, powerful by intimidation and pay-offs.

So, one can say that for as long as the police forces have been around, so has bribery and corruption. When the progressive era came around, we began to see changes. The political ties attached to many police forces and officers were severely cut. We have come a long way since then in that generally anyone who is fit and able can become an officer but one thing that has not changed however is the issue of bribery.

Anything you want or want to get out of, there is a bribe for that. The places where I see bribery occurring the most is at traffic stops. Meant to keep road users safe and combat crime, traffic stops have become one of the most lucrative avenues for taking bribes. Many people of course, give them rather than going through the entire process of court hearing and basically paying the same amount of money for bail or more.

Just last week, a friend and I were driving and they jumped the red light. We were promptly pulled over by two police officers. After having us idle on the road for close to ten minutes, they had us drive to the police station. At this point, I was slightly annoyed that we were wasting so much time but I was also proud that they did not ask for a bribe and seemed to have no intentions of doing so. After all, they would not really take us all the way to the police station to collect a bribe, right? They could do that on the road. My friend went into the station and took a while so I assumed that they were going through the normal procedures only to have them come out to say that they asked for a bribe.

I have always been conflicted about the issue of bribes, traffic ones in particular. On one hand, I sympathise with officers because if we are all being honest, they are grossly underpaid for the amount of work they do and the dangerous situations they often have to enter. On the other hand, I see bribes as a slippery slope to deep and serious corruption as we have seen in many cases with police becoming hit men and the likes.

One of the problems we have is the issue of the proper screening of those wishing to join the force. I am not sure about the current methods used to vet persons entering the force, but it surely does not seem to be a thorough enough vetting. We have way too many cases of officers being involved in crimes. I am curious about what the force does to promote ethics amongst officers. Do they have any active programs to help with morale? Do they do sensitivity training for cases such as abuse and rape victims? Are they taught that their biases and patriarchal views have no room in the force? From all indications, no such systems are in place. If they are, they seem to be failing miserably.

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