Sierra Leone has emerged as one of the top African countries where police officers demand bribes from citizens seeking assistance, according to a recent survey conducted by Afrobarometer, a Ghana-based non-profit organization.

The survey, titled “Law enforcers or law breakers?”, collected data from respondents in 39 African countries, conducting 53,444 interviews between late 2021 and mid-2023. It found that 36% of respondents said they were asked to pay a bribe, give a gift, or do a favour to get the assistance they needed from the police.

The findings revealed that Sierra Leone, alongside Liberia, Nigeria, and Uganda, topped the list of nations where citizens reported instances of police soliciting bribes. According to the survey, 72% of respondents in Sierra Leone reported being asked for bribes, gifts, or favors when seeking police assistance.

“Being stopped for no good reason may sometimes be a prelude to being asked for money. Similarly, asking for police assistance may prompt a demand for under-the-table payments.” Afrobarometer said in its report.

The survey also found that three in 10 Africans said the police in their country “often” or “always” engage in criminal activities.

In Sierra Leone, 30% of respondents said they believe the police “often” or “always” engage in criminal activities, while 37% said they “sometimes” do so and 23% said they are rarely/never involved in crime.

The findings of the survey highlight the widespread problem of police corruption in Africa. This corruption can have a negative impact on the lives of ordinary citizens, as it can make it difficult for them to access justice and security.

Police brutality and extrajudicial killings have been reported in several African countries in recent times. In 2022, more than 20 people were killed in Sierra Leone during protests against the soaring cost of living according to Amnesty International.