AD56: Police corruption in Africa undermines trust, but support for law enforcement remains strong

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Pauline M. Wambua

According to the 2013 Global Corruption Report by Transparency International (TI), the police are perceived as the most corrupt institution in Africa. Of 36 countries worldwide where police are seen as the most corrupt institution, 20 are in Africa. According to the report, the police are the most often bribed institution, followed by the judiciary; 31% of people who came into contact with the police report having paid a bribe. Bribery rates of the police were 75% or higher in seven countries, including six African countries.

Such negative perceptions of police integrity are damaging to the credibility and effectiveness of the agency charged with protecting the lives and property of citizens. As Kumssa (2015) observes, police corruption undermines public trust in the institution and impairs effective enforcement of the law.

While the TI report is loud and clear, it does not address how public perceptions of police corruption relate to citizens’ trust in the police, support for the police mandate to make people obey the law, and crime victims’ decision on whether to report crime. This paper adds the voices of ordinary Africans on these issues, as well as on citizens’ first-hand experience of bribing the police, using Afrobarometer surveys carried out in 34 African countries between 2002 and 2013.

Graph: Perceptions of corruption across institutions | 34 countries | 2011/2013