How Corrupt Police Officers are Hunting for Bribes

Sunday, February 19, 2017

On one hand, I do not know of any corrupt police officers at my home in central Europeinfo-icon. Neither have I  been nor heard of a situation, where a cop is using its power to enrich himself. It is just not necessary. On the other hand, I have heard vague stories about foreign places.

On my big overland road trip from Nairobi to Cape Town I finally made my first experiences. I have met corrupt bastards and obviously rigged setups. However, the majority of police officers and checkpoints were friendly and helpful. The following stories only include negative examples and do not represent the honest and valuable work of others.

By these examples, I want to show what anybody could encounter and how to deal with the situation.

#1 BodaBoda (moped taxi) safety in Nairobi, Kenyainfo-icon

My very first encounter with the police in Nairobi was a bit frightening. Against all advice, I took a Boda Boda to cross the metropolitan city centre after dusk. It was already dark and we were two expats without helmets or safety vests sitting closely behind the driver.

I started my journey in Kenya after buying a used car there. It was a hustle mainly because gathering the information.

In a dimly lit alley, we were stopped by a bus full of armed guys. While the bus was moving on, two allegedly police officers with an AK47 wanted to fine us for this dangerous ride. However, they could not quote the exact misdemeanour nor the fine.

Meanwhile, our brave driver called a friend at a police station to report the incident. After 20 minutes of arguments and wild threats of imprisonment, the cops let us go with a warning: “I hope you have learned your lesson.”

#2 Speed radar behind a hidden downhill curve in Rwandainfo-icon

Scenic road around Rwanda

The rather small country of Rwanda invested a lot of money in smooth tarmac (asphalt) roads even though most people are poor and cannot afford a motorised vehicle. It is heartbreaking to drive on the finest roads while being passed by endless hordes of pedestrians.

Therefore, the speed limits are fairly low. In a rural area, when driving out of the village, we were caught by a speed cam. The cop was perfectly positioned behind a large curve on a downhill track. Ready for paying the fine for an obvious offence, we accused the cop of being sneaky.

Learn more: How to deal with corrupt police around Africa?

At this location, downhill and outside of the village, nobody would ever maintain 50 km/h. When putting even more pressure on writing the official receipt, the officer let us go without a reasonable explanation.

#3 International driving license validity in Tanzaniainfo-icon

Scenic road in Tanzania

I have met one of the corrupt police officers in western Tanzania. After several checkpoints and police controls, we were already used to the procedure. Friendly greeting, presenting a valid driving license and insurance, moving on with a smile.

This guy, however, really wanted to find a problem. At this time, my friend from the Netherlandsinfo-icon was driving and his international driving license did not explicitly mention Tanzania. So the cop was claiming that we needed a local license and we had to pay a fine.

We argued about the inconvenience of getting a local license for every single country we are driving through and the meaning of an international driving license in many languages. After 15 minutes the cop was bored and certainly ready for his next victim.

#4 Missing bolts and oil leakage in Zimbabweinfo-icon

Talking our way out of a fake speeding ticket in Gweta, Botswana

With the current economic crisis, Zimbabwe has one of the most corrupt police officers. I had been warned beforehand, but still was surprised to encounter a new checkpoint every 20 kilometres. On two occasions they tried their luck, sneaking around the car like hyenas.

The first time it was a missing bolt on the wheel, only an hour later a small oil leakage. In the latter case, they even showed us a large booklet with lengthy lists of regulations and fines. My argument was that one or two drops on the road do not qualify as an excessive leakage.

During 20 minutes, we were thanking the officer to find this problem and promised we would check it at the next gas station. They tried to be persistent and authoritarian, but eventually got bored by our arguments and let us go.

#5 Speed radar without indication in Botswanainfo-icon

Scenic roads in Botswana

Another suspicious speed cam setup I encountered in Botswana. In the middle of nowhere, a seemingly never-ending highway is passing by multiple national parks. Me and my colleague were already in a bad mood. We could not do the planned drive through the national parks because the only gas station in reach was completely dry.

Then the police stopped us and claimed it was 80 km/h and that we exceeded the speed limit. As honest citizens, we wanted to pay, but I could not remember any indication. After a long argument, I drove 10 kilometres back and filmed the entire trip to prove there was no sign.

Meanwhile, three other victims paid a fine and moved on. When I returned with the material, they let me go without checking it or any argument. The whole setup felt rigged and I was happy to save my money.

Again, these stories are not a representation of the mentioned countries, people or police. There are plenty of honest police officers besides corrupt police officers, who take their duty seriously and help the people. My main point with these examples is that corrupt police really exists, but also can be dealt with. They are people, treat them with respect, but do not let them fool you.

Adrian Sameli founder and editor of
Travel mindfully to meet local people around the world and embrace new cultures. Get inspired and inspire others!

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