Ukraine scraps traffic police to end corrupt fines

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The Independent Online

Sick of people telling him how they have been fleeced by public servants who are supposed to ensure their road safety, President Viktor Yushchenko has abolished the state traffic police at the stroke of a pen.

"I have warned ministers three times. If the traffic police continue to keep hiding in the bushes with speed cameras and do nothing else there will be no traffic police," he told a meeting of law enforcement chiefs at which various heads rolled. "You have discredited this agency. That is why I have taken the decision that from today there will be no traffic police."

Mr Yushchenko acted after a farmer complained to him how the traffic police had begun extorting bribes with renewed vigour since last year's orange revolution, which was supposed to eradicate the country's appalling corruption.

Policemen across the former Soviet Union supplement their often meagre salaries by extracting bribes from drivers for the most minor infractions. So commonplace is the occurrence that many drivers keep a few banknotes tucked in their driving licence to save time. Mr Yushchenko, who knows that the decision is likely to do his ratings no harm, assailed Sergey Kolomitsa, the head of the traffic police, before breaking the bad news that he had abolished his 23,000-strong department.

"What are your people doing on the roads?" he demanded to know.

"I have personally witnessed incidents where policemen have been patrolling the roads with the sole purpose of receiving bribes. In fact the only reason you go out on the road is to torment people."

Ukrainian motorists should not celebrate too soon, though. The discredited state traffic police will soon be replaced with a new state patrol service, albeit one which will apparently be dedicated exclusively to road safety rather than racketeering.