Four cops in Ho Chi Minh City were suspended from their jobs following an online-spreading video clip that showed them demanding bribes from traffic violators.
Senior Lieutenant-colonel Tran Thanh Tra, chief of HCMC Police Department’s road and railway traffic police division (PC67) told Thanh Nien on Wednesday that the officers, who were members of a team tasked with direccting traffic at Hang Xanh, a local major intersection, are now pending for an investigation.
On Tuesday online newspaper Nha bao & Cong luan (Journalists & Public Opinion) reported that earlier that day its reporters, acting on locals’ tip-off, filmed a group of four traffic officers running a checkpoint at a corner on the No.17 Street that connects Kha Van Can and Pham Van Dong streets.
It said the officers continuously stopped passing motorbikes, mostly for turning right from Kha Van Can to No.17 without giving a light signal.
The riders paid the cops before being allowed to leave, and in many cases the payment took place without riders presenting their personal documents or getting off their bikes, and officers writing any records of the violations, according to the news report.
When a male rider gave one of the officers a VND100,000 (US$5) bill, the latter grabbed his purse and opened it to check how much it had, and asked him to pay more before letting him go.
Soon after the report, a video clip that showed the officers’ doings over a length of nearly 20 minutes with the newspaper’s trademark was posted and went viral on social networks, drawing widespread criticism from netizens.
Tra said PC67 has asked the newspaper to provide them with the clip to clarify the wrongdoings of the officers – namely Senior Lieutenant Tran Le Cong Thanh, chief of the group, Lieutenant Nguyen Thanh An, Second Lieutenant Nguyen Chi Nam, and Second Lieutenant Dinh Thanh Phuc.
He also said that day Lieutenant Colonel Tran Van Thuong, chief of Hang Xanh’s traffic police team, when on his patrol, asked the group to stop their checkpoint because they were handling “many” vehicles at the same time.
Police’s initial findings are that they recorded 15 violation cases, and gave warnings against six others within about one and half hours they operated the checkpoint.
According to Tra, in their reports to their leaders, the officers admitted committing violations during their work like stopping and checking more than three vehicles at the same time, failing to write records of violations, running a checkpoint for more than 15 minutes, failing to greet motorbike riders before handling their violations, and not wearing their name tags.
They, however, denied that they had directly grabbed violators’ purses and taken their money as being accused by the newspaper.
Speaking to the online newspaper, 50-year-old man who was referred to as H. and who frequently travels on the route said he could not understand why the officers set up the checkpoint on the No.17 Street to punish people failed to switch on light when turning right from Kha Van Can.
He said both the streets as well as Pham Van Dong are one-way street, plus No.17 is just a few tens of meters long, thus no point in switching on the right light when making the turn.
Not to mention that the officers’ checkpoint was located in a corner as if they were “ambushing” motorbike drivers, he said, adding that sometimes all of the four officers ran to the middle of the street to stop violators, interfering with traffic.
Another frequent rider, a woman said she was stopped one morning when she was riding her child to school, and she knew instantly that she would be asked for money.
“I couldn't help but pay them, or I would be in trouble,” she said.
Meanwhile, people who ran street stalls near the checkpoint told the newspaper that the officers’ doings took place every day, but they did not dare voice out their objection.
According to a 2012 poll published by state inspectors and the World Bank, the Vietnamese public believe that corruption is a national problem and that the traffic police are the worst offenders.
In a move aiming to curb complicated procedures for traffic offenders, the Ministry of Public Security has drafted a circular that allows traffic police to collect fines on the street under certain circumstances.
But the proposal has sowed fears that it would facilitate corruption and worsen an already strained relations between the police and the people.
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