Several years ago I had a wonderful opportunity to travel to Lagos, Nigeria to work with the Governor’s staff and evaluate their police academy training system. During that visit, I was fortunate to have a formal meeting and take part in a press conference with the Governor of Lagos. The Governor commented to me privately and made the public statement that he desired to raise the standards for the police as he wanted well paid, educated and “pensionable” employees as his police officers. He saw this as a path to eliminating the corruption that was in the police agencies by hiring and retaining better officers. I found it interesting that he saw that as the path, which I whole heartedly agree with, and unfortunately in the United States, we have cut pay and benefits and are now experiencing recruitment and retention problems.
I had one other interesting encounter that is very relevant in today’s environment of the hatred of police as portrayed in the media. On the 11 hour flight home, I sat next to a very pleasant Nigerian man who owned a cement business in Lagos. I shared with him what my work was in Lagos after which he responded that he was very glad that I was helping the Governor as the Lagos police were seen as very corrupt. After a moment’s pause, he shared with me the thought that although the Nigerian police needed help in eliminating the corruption, he did like a certain level of lawlessness. He continued that he had grown up partially in the United States and spent time in Washington, DC. He stated that he was always concerned in the States about having issues like expired license tabs or driver’s license and that in Lagos that was not a worry. My response to him was that I can see how a certain level of lawlessness would be attractive, but I asked him at what level of lawlessness would he accept. I continued that we as humans seem to always take it one step farther and using the example of speed limits, that no matter what speed is set, we as humans will go past it. Thus if we agree to a certain level of lawlessness, someone will take it to the next level. I pointed out to him that he was a fairly young, strong person who could take care of himself and his family, but that one day he would be of an age or possibly ill of health that he would not be as capable. Then who would protect him and those he cared about? He agreed citing that he had not thought about it in that manner.
Regardless of the number of people who want less police, which I believe are very few, that reality is not feasible and I believe even those that want it know that. Once the media lets go and this is not in our face everyday, we as the police and the community will work out the issues. Let’s be patient and continue to serve out communities to the highest manner possible.