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Traffic cops face increasing violence

Update: July, 20/2017 - 07:00
A video clip posted on Facebook shows a female driver physically assaulting a traffic police officer. The number of violent incidents against officers is on the rise. — Photo
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI  In a video clip that immediately sparked public outrage after being posted on Facebook late on Monday, a young woman was seen yelling, cursing and trying to physically attack a traffic police officer in the middle of a heavily-congested street in HCM City.

The clip showed the woman demanding that the officer apologise to her, saying that she was paying a tax to “feed” him. Before the violent scene, the woman, later named as a temporary resident of Thủ Đức District, was found driving in the wrong lane.

While trying to stop the car, the police officer unintentionally struck his club against the car door, which apparently provoked the aggressive driver.

On June 30, another traffic police officer in central Hà Tĩnh Province was seriously injured after being knocked to the ground by a large truck. He had earlier been forced to cling to the truck’s wing mirror to avoid being deliberately run over after trying to stop the vehicle.

The driver was later found to have been using a fake driving licence, which would have resulted in a heavy penalty if he was caught.

Another officer, not as lucky as the one in Hà Tĩnh, was killed in a similar incident in April as he was run over by a truck in HCM City.

According to a report by the Department of Traffic Police under the Ministry of Public Security, in the first half of this year, 30 cases were recorded in which drivers reacted with violence when they were pulled over by police. Two officers died while others sustained injuries. Nine people were prosecuted for “deliberately acting against law enforcement officers” in six cases.

One of the main reasons for the alarming situation is the lack of ethical and legal knowledge among drivers, said Senior Lieutenant General Nguyễn Quang Nhật, deputy head of the Publicity Division under the Department of Traffic Police.

This is attributed to flaws in driver training and driving licence issuance processes, he said.

It is not difficult to find online advertisements which guarantee drivers will not fail a theory test by paying ‘extra money’, a method that many people are willing to employ.

An investigation by reporters of the Công Lý (Justice) newspaper last year revealed that by paying a sum of VNĐ3 million (US$131), one can receive ‘assistance’ when sitting the theory test.

When drivers are unaware of the law they may misunderstand proper etiquette, which easily results in conflicts with traffic police once they’re on the road, said Nguyễn Mạnh Thắng, an administrator of Otofun, an online forum for drivers which boasts nearly 500,000 members across the country.

“However, there are also ambiguous regulations in traffic legislation which may lead to different interpretations between police and drivers. Sometimes, it totally depends on officers in deciding the type of punishment, which can lead to disagreements on the road,” Thắng said.

Senior Lieutenant General Nhật from the Department of Traffic Police also admitted that in some cases, matters escalated due to inappropriate behaviour by police officers.

Corruption involving traffic police is rampant in Việt Nam, fuelling an already negative attitude towards officers. Any misconduct by a police official could end up making the situation worse.

An instruction by the Department of Traffic Police issued early this month regarding the problem also pointed out that in many cases of hostility towards law enforcement officers, the punishments handed out were still lenient.

According to current law, an individual can be fined between VNĐ4-6 million ($177 - $265) if committing actions that obstruct law enforcement officials or fail to obey their orders. Meanwhile, violators who resort to violence or threaten to use violence for the same purpose can be given six-month to three-year imprisonment or non-custodial reform of up to three years.

Most violators have only been subject to administrative fines, which are not tough enough to act as a deterrent, the instruction said.

In the past six months, only 21 per cent of cases led to criminal proceedings.

To tackle the problem, the Department of Traffic Police asked traffic police units as well as police officials to improve their skills when dealing with drivers they stop.

Traffic police are asked to be on high alert and increase protective measures to avoid causing injuries in dangerous situations.

They are also advised to proactively deter those acting in a hostile manner.   VNS



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