The implementation of guidelines instituted by Inspector General of Police aimed at reinforcing a new ethical culture and professionalism in managing traffic is a relief to motorists and other road users.
Among the measures is the scraping of roadblocks that should result in freer traffic flow and at the same time freeing thousands of officers from manning highways and their redeployment to general and other pressing duties.
Roadblocks going forward would only be erected with specific purpose on instructions from regional police commanders and according to the Traffic Act. In place of roadblocks and checkpoints, will be enhanced police patrols. We hope police will sufficiently be facilitated.
There is no doubt that according to the spirit of the law, the roadblocks and checkpoints were not merely whimsical impediments but measures meant to serve critical objectives, including curbing dangerous, reckless or drunken driving and other breaches that endanger life. The mounting of roadblocks also helps check ferrying contraband, driving unroadworthy, stolen vehicles or determining if the driver is licensed and the vehicle validly insured. These are compelling reasons.
But they fade out because of the unfortunate fact that officers assigned or increasingly those who assign themselves have used the checkpoints for self gain. Virtually every survey on graft names police as top of the pile of most corrupt public institutions.
Traffic police are singularly stained for rendering roadblocks tolls where bribes are brazenly demanded and handed in especially from Public Service Vehicles.
And all this in disregard to the Traffic Act provisions, which stipulate how, who and where roadblocks may be mounted. Most officers who erect barriers blatantly ignore the fact that mounting roadblocks should only be done by authorisation of the IG through a gazette notice or under circumstances certified as such, by an authorised officer.
It does not help that the police approach as they man these checkpoints is often haughty. This attitude requires adjusting to incorporate strategies which improve relationships between them and the public to reinforce confidence so police are not seen as violators of citizens’ rights nor complicit in committing crimes such as bribery.