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Liberia Police Cracking Down on Bribes

  • Anne Look

A policeman regulates traffic in Monrovia, Liberia, Jan. 29, 2013.

A policeman regulates traffic in Monrovia, Liberia, Jan. 29, 2013.

Liberia's police force says it is cracking down on officers demanding and accepting bribes, following the release this month of Transparency International's 2013 Global Corruption Barometer report.

The Transparency International report found 77 percent of people surveyed in Liberia paid a bribe to police in the past year.

That has sparked outrage in Liberia, where motorists said policemen routinely demanded small bribes, or as they said in Monrovia, "a small thing before you go."

Liberia's police spokesman, Sam Collins, said any officer taking a bribe would be fired and could face criminal charges.

"Any attempt on the part of any officer to get involved in acts unbecoming of the police officer, that officer will be dealt with. There will be no turning back," he said.

Drivers of commercial vehicles said they were particularly targeted by police looking for bribes.

Driver Bull Davies said an officer can stop you for a violation, real or imagined, and demand payment of as much as $15 or 500 to 1,000 Liberian dollars.

"They will threaten to give you a ticket or will not give you a ticket. Then they will tell someone give me 1,000 or give me 500. They will receive that 500 and they will not give a receipt. They will not give you anything. They receive it and they leave. They gone," he said.

A commercial driver typically only earns about 1,000 Liberian dollars per day.

But ex-policeman Morris Tamba said officers were also sometimes just trying to make ends meet.

"If you are paid on time, [they] give you good salary on time, everything on time, the bribery will not be received as much as it is now. The corruption will be eliminated. Take an example. Last month, they are not getting paid. What do you expect somebody to do? The man search outside. No food to the house. He will go in the street. He will arrest somebody falsely," he said.

Liberia's police spokesman said officers are being paid on time. But VOA spoke to several policemen who said their monthly salaries are sometimes delayed by as much as a week.

(Prince Collins contributed reporting from Monrovia, Liberia.)