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Jaristotle's Jottings | Power, corruption and the police

Published:Thursday | May 23, 2019 | 12:12 AM

The saying that ‘power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ holds true for just about every group that enjoys some level of power in our fair isle. While politicians are at the top of the feeding tree where power and corruption are concerned, it is to the police that I wish to draw your attention.

Whereas politicians make the laws, police officers are empowered to enforce those laws and obtain compliance from the citizenry by taking such action as is considered necessary to achieve those ends. They can justifiably deprive you of your freedom, throw lick pon yuh if they feel threatened by your behaviour, and have been known to use deadly force in the execution of their duties.

Whither the corruption

Now, I am not talking about a collective power, but the power vested in individual police officers: powers of discretionary stop and search, detention and arrest are as close as one can come to absolute power in a democracy such as ours. Needless to say, there is hardly any worst form of low life than police officers who betray the country and the citizenry by using their powers for unlawful means, especially when used against those they are supposed to protect.

Our police force has been openly classed as being wantonly and manifestly corrupt, notwithstanding there are many good people serving therein. Therefore, apart from those officers who joined the force with the specific intention of using their powers for nefarious purposes, I am going to assume that the majority joined to make a positive difference.

The challenge then is to determine where the manifest corruption comes from. The answer is very simple: from us. Is we turn dem into the corrupt entity that we now cuss.

We are a people who are always looking for an easy way out of everything, and we know that the best way to achieve our goals is to use the tools at our disposal, tools which include people with the requisite power to make things happen in our favour.

If we encounter problems such as other people ‘borrowing’ our property without permission, we report the matter to the police and we spare no ends in exalting them when they deal with the matter. Herein lies the problem, the extent and form of such exaltation.

Whereas a simple thank you should suffice, we have a history of going overboard, not just to show our appreciation but also to concretise our relationship with the police as a sort of insurance policy.

Our bounteousness often knows no bounds: we keep the police well spirited a few bottles at a time and are quite generous towards their ‘charities’. When we run afoul of the law, we revert to those ‘exalted’ officers, seeking a bligh. When we get that bligh, more exaltation follows, gradually blurring the distinctions between police services and commercial activities.

By our actions we long ago created a pattern of expectation, ignorantly greasing palms and failing to appreciate that we were fuelling an insatiable appetite for graft which has now mushroomed into a monster. We have been and remain a major part of the problem.

The same can be said in relation to lickey-lickeyism among public servants in other agencies where individuals have the discretionary power to facilitate or frustrate our legitimate endeavours.

Rooting out corruption in the police force must extend beyond the disbanding of units and sanctioning corrupt officers. It requires a parallel crackdown on corruption in the society at large, addressing the workplace issues that incite palm-greasing and eradicating the notion that dropping a money is the only way to get things done.

Anything else is akin to putting a band- aid on a festering sore.

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