Peru’s transit police aren’t famous for their honesty or work ethic. Anything but. In line with all Government employees, they are so underpaid that they see corruption as the only way to make a decent living. For transit police, this usually involves pulling over those drivers who violate traffic laws and writing up a ticket… a ticket that can be ripped up on the spot though, should you be kind enough to collaborate with a little lunch money, beer money, a holiday bonus if it is nearing Christmas, or even money for gasoline.
This corruption festering at the heart of Lima’s, and all of Peru’s, never ending transportation crisis means that roads stay full of dangerous drivers, vehicles that are falling apart and people with no regard for the rules or lives of others.
Last week it was decided that all male traffic cops would be reassigned to desk jobs, and the streets would be run by women. Why? Well it has long been agreed the female officers are far less corrupt – the majority don’t ask for bribes and when offered they refuse them. And rather than letting people off with warnings, they are far stricter with drivers who commit crimes like running red lights or driving under the influence.
In total, authorities in Lima are removing 500 male officers from the streets, while 2074 female officers will take over.
But the decision is not without its risks.
In 1999 similar changes were made to transit police staffing. Due to high levels of corruption, a greater level of control was handed to female officers, and more women were placed onto the streets.
Levels of violent attacks on police officers soared. “Soulless inhuman criminals without consciences“, a term I think accurately describes many drivers, but especially drivers of taxis and buses, would attack lone female officers attempting to enforce the law. Some were even seriously hurt when drunk or speeding drivers would do things such as run them down or knock them off their motorbikes to avoid fines. Mostly though, female police officers had to put up with insults, lewd comments and general disrespect.
It seemed drivers were unhappy with the female officers. They were too strict and refused to accept bribes. Recently, Lima’s taxi drivers took part in a protest against the number of tickets issued to the criminal drivers in their ranks, and against the number of license revocations of drivers too dangerous to be let on the roads. They are also very unhappy with being forced by recent laws to have their vehicles pass safety and emissions inspections.
As it stands, 69% of people who participated in an online survey carried out by Peru.com agreed with the replacement of male officers with female ones, with 29% disagreeing with the move to improve safety and lower corruption.