Sri Lanka roads might be getting a little safer. Maybe. Along with raising fines for speeding, police agencies are also deploying fake cops. Cardboard cutouts of officers have been placed alongside roads as a deterrent.
These cardboard replicants may be these agencies’ only honest cops. The State Department’s report on Sri Lanka says police in the country routinely engage in arbitrary arrests and “harass civilians with impunity.” This harassment often takes the form of soliciting bribes. Combine the two and you have officers wandering around with iron fists and open palms. Another report says the bribery is a two-way street, with officers sometimes paying off citizens to purchase their silence about other illegal police activities.
The problem with solicited bribes is large enough the government has set up a portal for citizens to file complaints about bribes solicited/paid. Fortunately, anonymity is an option. Unfortunately, the government runs the website so collected data may help pinpoint where the complaints are originating from.
So, it naturally follows that Sri Lankans — a third of which believe the nation’s police are corrupt — are toying with the cardboard cops. In a less corrupt society, this would have led to nothing but some fun had by all. Since Sri Lanka is notoriously corrupt, it has led to this instead:
Sri Lankan police have arrested two people who posted a Facebook video showing one of them pretending to give a bribe to a traffic police cutout.
In the footage, a motorcyclist is seen offering money to the life-size figure of an officer with a speed gun in the northern town of Vavuniya.
The man in the video and his friend who filmed it have been released on bail.
They are charged with damaging public property, and humiliating and creating a bad public image of the police.
Satire is dead. Or if it isn’t dead, it’s being detained and charged.
2 arrested in Vavuniua for insulting a Traffic Police dummy by offering a bribe and then posting it on social media. pic.twitter.com/1ukagysDt7
— Azzam Ameen (@AzzamAmeen) January 4, 2019
The obvious point here is the police’s bad public image has been created by the police. When citizens are filming what everyone’s thinking, the best course of action would be to laugh it off and maybe say a few words no one will believe about “bad apples.” Instead, law enforcement has decided to create an international incident by arresting two people having a little fun with stereotypes. Having a stereotypical reaction isn’t going to do much to buff out the dents in law enforcement’s “bad public image.”
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