South Sudan: A thin line between a gift and a bribe within the police service

Posted: April 7, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël in Akuot Aquila Apiu Garang, Junub Sudan

A thin line between a gift and a bribe: My few years experiences with South Sudan police service

By 1st Lt Akuot Aquila Apiu Garang, Juba, South Sudan

Traffic police in Bor, Solomon Mabior Ruar

Jonglei state Director of traffic police Col Solomon Mabior Ruar on fouth independence day picture by Mach Samuel

April 7, 2018 (SSB) — Police officers in any country are a reflection of the society, in other words, if you would want to know a given society, look at its police force. Someone once said “people get the kind of government they deserve” I would want to add that people will always get the kind of police force they deserve.

A poorly trained, lowly paid, ill-equipped, always criticized but never appreciated police force will more often than not be riddled with corruption, brutality and all forms of abuse of human rights.

The police department is a service-oriented organization. We provide service to the people to defend their persons and their property and to enable them to live in peace and pursue their lawful activities without hindrance, People pay taxes to the government expecting it to provide them with peace (security) and liberty (freedom), in order to pursue happiness as grantee in the national constitution.

Police officers are members of an official organization whose job is to keep public order. Police officers are therefore in the society for good of the society; our job is to enforce the law, to be the partner of our social agencies for good of the community in all manners of ways but principally to maintain peace.

But they police officers are not merely guardians of the peace, they are an integral part of its social life, when most reasonable people think about the image of the good police officer, the first thing they think of is the reassurance. Here is the person they believe as the power, authority, and training to help them in their time of needs, not many people seek out a police officer unless they have some sort of problems, after all, that is what we should have joined the police services for. In case we are in any doubt we only have to look at the cap of badge crest that we wear to see that our aim is to be of “service to all without fear or favor”.

Having been in police services for sometimes now, I know that sorting out other people’s problem is very stressful; it is easy to get “compassion fatigue” because out daily work involves working with very distressing and depressing situations. For instance, fatal accident, rape, murder and all other aspects of criminal activity are part of our daily experience. A few days back I heard about what appeared to be the brutal killing of a young woman in Shirkat.

She must have died the brutal and agonizing death and I could not help thinking of the effect that small torture body might have on my colleague who might have to investigate that murder. I am not of course for a moment ignoring the incredible trauma of the parents and family of that young woman to whom we the police officers should be immediately offering assistance comfort, condolence, and assurance. But for the moment I am trying to focus on the effect this sort of thing has on us.

Now I don’t believe we can use the awful experiences we face in the normal course of our work as an excuse to harden our heart to such an extent that we can no longer face victims of crime and accident without a measure of compassion, yes there must be, for our own mental health, a measure of insulation otherwise we might become overwhelmed.

But we must never forget that we are dealing with another human being who is suffering from physical trauma, mental or emotional through no fault of their own, they are often the victim of circumstances beyond their control caused by perhaps someone else dangerous driving or heartless violence criminal activity.

There is something very wrong with our society today, we only have to look at our own television set or newspaper to see a world torn apart by the strike, there is an increasing level of violence and other criminal activity.

The sanctity of life is under threat people are been killed left and right, every day, through robberies and political and ethnic cleansing among others, in our own backyard. Many police officers are committing suicide in their hundred, many have become the victim of drugs abuses and alcoholism as a result of the stress of the job.

Many police families are breaking up, and we see the tragic consequences that follow such breakup. HIV/AIDS has become such threat to many police department that some may have to replace over a half of their personalities within the next few years unless the situation is contained.

Police officers hate and fear criminals, the officers, in turn, are feared on and hated by most of the people they police. To most officers, the establishments they serve seem to hold them in contempt, while the press is a mortal enemy ready to destroy an officers’ career just by throwing a sensational headline or news update.

We left the police academy with high ideals and great expectation only to have some veteran officers telling us to forget about everything tough in the classroom. Hearing that kind of advice along with a few bad experiences with the general public led to a strong possibility of an officer wet behind their ears.

The below observation explains the demands the police service places on the officers. Five things are worth mentioning.

First, the police service exposes us to the extreme of life. We see the thing that the public never see, we experience the traumatic situation, we see tragedy, victims of brutal attacks, motor accidents, natural calamities, fires, blood, and dangers. Officers are exposed to death and injuries. This created the false impression that the police are callous. They are forced to switch off emotions and get hardened, unfeeling and insensitive.

Second, the police services tend to give officers a limited perspective, the nature of the work is such that we mainly deal with problems. We are only called when things go wrong, for example, no one calls police officers when he or she is having a good time, people lie to officers about everything: who they are, what they have been doing, what their name is, and so on.

Even ordinary law-abiding citizens are known to bend the truth about themselves, we see people at their worth. This result to cynicism, the belief that most human behavior motivated by selfishness. Cynicism results from prolonged exposure to the worst in people’s behaviors. A cynic expects nothing good from the people and is therefore rarely disappointed.

It takes only a few disappointments for an idealistic young officer to build a self-protective wall of cynicism against being made to look foolish or feel naïve as a result officers doubt and find it difficult to trust human sincerity. A bad part of cynicism is that a cynical officer is often subject to a frequent civilian and complaints, they are regular recipients of departmental disciplinary action.

Third, the issue of authority and command presence is very close to police officers, officers probably spend as much time controlling others as they do control themselves, as a matter of fact, most activities in police work have to do with controlling something or someone, traffic control, crowd control, crime control and so on. The police department is paramilitary organization structured according to rank, power and authority are distributed along the chain of command, the only language we understand is obeying orders and commands.

Authority is very necessary on the job, we command authority until it becomes part of our personality, an officer who have been trained to give and receive orders without argument may expect compliance at home and react poorly when not been able to get it, often unaware we tend to command and control even our family members as though they where suspect, laws breaker or people who need to be ordered about, this result in deterioration of relationships

Fourth, police officers hold the position of public trust and are trained to respond emergencies. Society demand they get involved, officers expect it themselves as well, from day one, officers are taught to see nearly everything in their environment as potentially life-threatening and dangerous.

You are taught that your survival and survival of others depend on your ability to interpret most of the environment are potentially lethal, as result, officers suffer from the panic attack that is represented by the extreme outcome of uncontrolled hypervigilance, nearly everyone who works as a police officer experience some hypervigilance.

Hypervigilance is a hazardous habit that alters the way officers interact with an environment, the problem arises when officers become so hyper that they actually search for an opportunity to get involved in an emergency.

Fifth, the service in still street mentality in the officers. in this job, understanding the criminal mine is necessary, the criminal mentality is warped, to succeed you must be known the criminal language as you tolerate street mentality from normalcy, you become more comfortable with the criminal and colleagues, but not with religion.

The majority of police officers socialized exclusively with other officers, the first reason a cop will give is that his unconventional work schedule enforces constraints on his behaviors. Most police officers will tell you that they do not socialize with civilian because another cop can understand the pressure that shapes the police officers attitude toward life work and society

As a police officer whether serving Uganda, England, Canada, Nigeria, Egypt each of us has a tremendous opportunity to be reckoning force for what is good and what is right.  But this tremendous opportunity brings with it tremendous difficulty, sometimes it brings physical danger, each year desperate people, the deranged people. People with political motivation injured and murdered many of our colleagues but the physical danger is not the only danger that we face, the work we do is morally dangerous

Many of us at some point in our careers have been tempted to misuse the powers accorded to us by our position, we may have been tempted by desire to enact our own version of justice, to advance our own position at the expense of others, we may have taken bribe in the name of gift and of course in the police world there is a thin line between a gift and a bribe or by single need of meeting basic financial and family obligation. Police world exposes us to complex moral and ethical obligation which put us at the risk of giving in to the temptation that people outside the police profession never have to face.

If we give in to temptation we risk bringing damage and dishonor not just on ourselves  or our families but on the entire world wide police community with instant worldwide news coverage, my conduct and that of my fellow officer impact on our credibility, reputation and ability to do our job as police officers likewise your individual conduct as police officer impact us all thus we are dependent on one another to resist the moral danger as well as to protect against the physical danger that we face in our vocation.

Each of us needs moral tools and the moral amour to withstand the difficulties and temptation we face as police officers. I believe that we need to equip ourselves and to help equip our fellow officers with such tools, those tools consist of a set core values build on the article of religious faith, values such as integrity, dignity, loyalty, responsibility, discipline, courage, compassion, diligent, humility, conviction and optimism.

With integrity, we can seek to unit our words with our deeds and be true to our oath of office in other word live what we believe and profess. With dignity, we can uphold ourselves, uphold one another and we can treat people in our communities with decency and respect. With loyalty, we can submit to every authority set above us so as to grant us authority over others. We can take responsibilities for our own action even as we accept responsibilities for providing essential public safety in our communities. With discipline, we can self-controlled at all times so as to remain objective and fair in decision making. As Robert Vernom said, “people who achieve greatness and cultures that persuade excellently have one thing in common-discipline”.

With courage we can overcome fear, to seize the initiative to do what we believe is right and noble even if everyone is against it. With diligent, we demonstrate our commitment to our profession by not only working hard but also pursuing excellence. With humility, we see ourselves as servants rather than masters. Finally, with optimism, we can focus on the objective we realistically addressed obstacle that we face.

Make no mistake the expression of these values in our work is no easy task, to hold ourselves to the discipline of being true to these values in the midst of sadness and heartbreaking situation which we encounter is difficult. It is difficult to champion these values when we are surrounded by people in crisis and with few resources with which to help.

Although it is difficult, it is absolutely necessary that we uphold these values as we do our duties, because with them we can transform our communities, our nation, and our world. We are in unique position to do this because people look at us to help them to establish the condition of public order and public civility which allowed all aspect of society to function.

One contact at a time, one case at a time, our approach to our work and the values that we display can make a positive difference with those we police.

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. PaanLuel Wël website (SSB) do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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