My friend Dan Lueth recently asked “What’s up with your police?”
He is referring, I assume, to the recent set of horrific scandals that have plagued the Budapest Police Department. In case you haven’t heard, the two big stories are:
1) A late night traffic stop went sour when a group of police raped the female motorist they had stopped.
2) After a truly brilliant display by the police in their foiling an attempted bank robbery/hostage crisis (no irony there, it was great police work), an officer was caught on CCTV taking money from the till of one of the bank’s tellers.
So, to repeat Dan’s question, what is up with the
I can’t go into too much detail, as I have been fortunate enough to avoid contact, for the most part, with
What I can say about the police force in general is that they get very little respect. But as evidenced by the recent stories coming out of Budapest, the police themselves are often to blame for this.
It is common knowledge in this country that if you are pulled over for a traffic violation of any kind, you can get out of trouble with a bribe to the officer. Unfortunately, even the smallest violation often gets the cops talking about how they are going to have to haul your car in, suspend your license, take you into court… and until you say the magic words, “Is there some other way we could settle this?” you are stuck listening to a bitter, poorly-trained, underpaid, armed civil servant indirectly solicit a bribe.
Example: Dora’s co-worker Dani (English speakers: say Donnie, think Danny) is driving his boss’s car home after a business dinner. Dani’s got the car because there is a zero-tolerance rule on drinking and driving here, and the boss had wine with dinner. Dani did have one glass, but it was more then three hours earlier and with food. When he gets pulled over (probably because the car is a nice one), there is a breathalyzer. Dani is not allowed to see the results, but the cops tell him he is in trouble. Then the talk begins. When Dani eventually offers a bribe of everything he has on him, the cops say it isn’t enough and accompany Dani to the nearest ATM.
Wait. It gets better.
Later that month, Dani’s mother is at a social event where she corners an acquaintance who is a former high-ranking official from the police department. She tells him the story, and justice is served –
And that sheds some light on what is up with our police. As a resident of the city, you hope the men and women in uniform who are corrupt will draw the line before resorting to gang rape and bank robbery, but what’s to stop them? Decency? The city gives these people the authority of a handgun, but can’t pay them decent money while the civilians offer them little-to-no respect. Who in their right mind would take such a job? Answer: Someone who wants the authority of a handgun OR Someone who really cares about this city and would like to make it a better place.
The police department here has both. Unfortunately the latter don’t make for interesting international headlines.