As one travels around the world one gets used to the idea that different societies have different approaches to policing. In some countries a “service charge” is expected, in others the Police are quite clearly in existence, merely to enforce the interests of the state. However I had some experiences in Douala the other day that brought it into perspective. I went out for a drive in the evening to clear my head after a particularly stressful day. There is a small strip of land that over looks the Wouri River mouth, which in the six years I have been in Doaula, has always been a parking space, or picnic location. I wanted to make a phone call so I considered this a safe place to pull over off the main road and use my mobile. I was mildly frustrated but not surprised when I was approached by a uniformed police officer, I remembered from my Policing days that a vehicle pulled over at night might be of interest so I cut my phone call and prepared to give my papers over. The officer then proceeded to point to a sign some ten meters behind me (i.e. that I had not driven past) and said that I had committed a serious offence as I had driven into a controlled military zone. The sign said nothing of the sort. However it is the beginning of a military area so I did not feel unduly put out buy his request for a security check. Then he announced that he would have to report my for the infraction, I agreed, and prepared for the paper work. Then as I expected (he was not anticipating my compliance) he began looking for a way to ask for a bribe so that he would not need to do the paper work. I explained that, as it was clear from his explanation that I had committed a serious offence he really should fill in the paper work. He then began to get irate and finally pulled a pistol on me and demanded whisky. I explained that I did not drink and drive. He did not see the humour in this and became irate, “ just give me the money to buy whiskey”. “ Ah I understand now you want me to bride you?” I paid the money and he stormed off”. In fact this is not the first time I have been the victim of armed robbery in Africa, the other occasion was also a Police officer.
A few days later I was in a Police station reporting a fairly serious crime the police explained quite clearly that if I wanted anything done about it I would have to pay.
I also asked why when I had tried to report an assault in progress no one would come, the officer explained that they would not come unless any one was already hurt or dead.
Protection of life and property?
The British public has no idea how lucky they are!