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Rainelda Mata-Kelly of Law Offices Rainelda Mata-Kelly – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
There is some level of corruption in the traffic police in Panama, but this is something that the police department takes seriously and is endeavoring to eradicate.  Unlike some other countries, where traffic police will stop you for no good reason and then bribe you, in Panama, traffic police will only stop you if you have committed an infraction.   
 
It is never advisable to pay a bribe to police under any circumstance.  Not only would you be contributing to the problem, but if you offer to pay a bribe in Panama, you could be detained and prosecuted. 
Cody W. – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Hidden travel wallet – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingJust visited Panama last week looking for investment opportunities. Was pulled over for speeding-- 101 in an 80 zone. The cop asked for my papers.  All I had was my Texas drivers license. I had left my passport and even the rental car agreement in our condo in the safe.
 
The policeman asked me to get out of the car (my wife was in the front seat as well) and go back to his car. (I figured he was headed down the path of a bribe at this point.) He spent about 5 minutes explaining to me I had done an 'infraction'. I agreed with him several times and explained to him I would be happy to pay for a boleto traffico and immediately asked for the boleto and where I would go to pay it. He started scrolling through his phone (I could see he was just scrolling thru contacts) and suddenly said I could pay him US $100. I gave him my best 'shocked face' and immediately said I was sorry I did not have $100 on me, but I had $40.
 
More scrolling, then he put his hand down low and against his leg beside the back of the car and indicated I should pay immediately. I did, and we were then best friends. He called me amigo and told me to have a nice day. I shook his hand and off I went. Before I was able to get into the car, he was in the process of flagging down his next victim.
 
I was happy to take care of this on the spot. Yes I was speeding, yes this is illegal, yes, welcome to Third World Transactions. He was happy, I was happy, win – win. Nothing to get upset over.
 
My advice is if you are able to facilitate such a transaction, you are lucking. I suggest carrying a few bills in one pocket then the rest in a hidden area of your car or in one those money carriers around your waist. That way they can’t see how much you really have and confirms your ‘story’ to them.
 
(Hidden travel wallet, pictured.)

I can’t remember how many times I bribed cops in Egypt. It’s just part and parcel of living there. 
John Gilbert of PanamaKeys – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Panana police marching in a parade in Panama City, Panama 1945 – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingBy what I understand, bribing the police used to be a huge problem here in Panama, but you don’t see that anymore. The last government that was here boosted police pay to the point where that wasn’t as much of a concern anymore. I don’t experience any oppressive police behavior here in Panama.
 
There are experiences here that are different than in the United States. For example, going from one province to the other usually involves going through a police checkpoint where all you do is show your ID, then they ask you where you’ve been and where you’re going, and you say have a nice day, and you’re on your way. They’re looking for drugs and those kinds of things, I’m sure, but I have not been in a situation where I’ve had to pay a bribe or anything like that.  
 
(Panama police marching in a parade in Panama City, Panama 1946, pictured.)
Kevin Painter of Azura – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
presidential-candidates Panama presidency 2014 – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIn certain circumstances, you do bribe the police in Panama. The new president, who has been in office for a year, is trying to stop all of this. It's very difficult to stop because it's been going on a lot and it's common practice. 
 
However, the corruption is nothing big that would concern you. I've been in business here in Panama for six years and there is nothing like extortion here.  You just pay a little bit for fees here and there if you want something done in a hurry but it’s nothing unforgiving; nothing at all.  Also, it’s nothing large, not at all Mafia style protection.  Nothing like that.  I’ve been in business here in Panama and been able to get permits and start a business with no issue at all.
 
(Panama's 2014 presidential candidates:Candidates: Juan Carlos Varela, Juan Carlos Navarro, José Domingo Arias, and Genaro López, pictured.)
John Michael – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
I only want to answer the first question that was asked.  "How corrupt are the police in Panama?"
 
To answer that I will tell you of what regularly happens in the Volcan, Chiriqui area.
 
People are falsely under the belief that the police are there to help in times of crisis or duress.  If you call because you are being or have been robbed, you will be asked to travel approximately 20 miles to the town of Concepcion to visit the police office there.  You will be required to fill out paperwork after which the Volcan police say they will respond in about a week when the paper request arrives.  The end result is the trail will be cold after a week and the result is usually one of no response when the paperwork arrives in Volcan.
 
If you call the police and insist they come, they usually say they don't have a vehicle to come and help.  Volcan police have a Ford F250 pickup and a Ford Fusion car.  It is an obvious lie when they say they don't have a vehicle to come and help.  What people observe in this town is that the car and truck are more frequently seen at roadblocks, friends houses for hours, taking the family to the grocery store, and going to birthday parties.  (Only some examples.) (Police policy expressly prohibits using vehicles and equipment for personal use.)
 
The neighbor lady on our street called the police last November because other neighbors were drunk, playing loud music, yelling, and urinating on other people's cars.  All of this lasted well until daylight.  The police responded by asking 'what color her panties were'.  And, of course, they never came to handle the problem.
 
A lady friend of mine was stopped at a roadblock.  The cop said her tires were worn out and he would be forced to write her a ticket of $150.  She did have another option, however.  If she went on a date with him he wouldn't write the ticket.  She declined and had to come up with the money.  None of the tires were worn to the wear indicators.
 
My wife's cousin was forcibly taken from the back seat of his friend's car because he didn't have his identification on him as they went to the local grocery store.  He was beat up in the jail and released the next morning.
 
An American living here was robbed, beaten, and had his life threatened.  The police wouldn't even question the suspect identified by the neighbor.
 
The police in this town have an agreement with the local tow truck.  If your papers are not in order they will tow your car, especially if you are American.  Do not be deceived in believing this is a legitimate agreement.  The tow truck owner/driver known as Senor Mojica of Taller Mojica will respond to your crisis by telling you lies to gain your confidence.  He will say he doesn't like the cops and what they are doing to the people.  He will console and promise that he will be careful with your car and wont charge you storage if you can pay the fine and return the next morning.  When you return, you will find he is not there and his wife is insisting that you must pay the maximum and not what you agreed to the day before.  Of course, you will try to argue the contrary in your poor Spanish.  The result is you will pay way more for the tow truck than you will for the fine.  When I inquired in the main office in David City, they said the only reason to tow a car is because, 1) you are drunk and there is no one else to drive the car, and 2) the car has been in an accident and cannot be moved under its own power.  By the way, when they take (steal) your vehicle they tell you to take a hike no matter where you are or what time it is.  They will drive away and leave you standing there alone on the side of the road.
 
Oh, the fine.  That's right.  Because you are driving on your US driver's license and cannot be ticketed (because you are not in the system), the cop will write the ticket in the name of the nearest person who has a Panamanian license.  This person is most likely a friend or family member in the car with you, or the person who so kindly is trying to intercede on your behalf who witnessed this act of thievery.  Of course, you are obligated to pay.  Did you understand that?  They are taking your property without cause and applying the fine to a person who wasn't driving or wasn't even there.
 
Just like in the US, there is a penalty for every infraction.  But the penalty is not being towed for every infraction.  The correct way is that you be written a ticket and then you go and pay it.  The cops here in Volcan must not be aware of the little book of traffic laws that describe every offense and its penalty.  You will not find any mention in it of towing the victim's car.
 
But remember, they don't have a vehicle when there is a REAL CRIME.
 
These are but a few of the greater experiences of corruption in Volcan.  I cannot speak for other places but I do from time to time hear similar stories from the Boquete, David, and Concepcion areas.  The police here are very corrupt to say the least, judging by the lies and stealing that is happening.  They are not your friends.
Bill Hamilton of Bill Hamilton – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Panama police on patrol – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingYou can bribe the police in Panama all the time. I was stopped for speeding thrice.
 
The most recent time, the police said to me, “You were doing a 102 (kilometers per hour) in a 100 area.”
 
If they stop you, you have to ask to look at their machine. They have these radar things. You have to always ask them to look at the result.
 
We were going somewhere that weekend. I told the police, “Listen, I’m not going be able to pay this in 48 hours. We’re going away and I have to pay it in Balboa. There must be a way that I can sort this out now.”
 
He goes off to the other policemen and comes back.
 
I asked, “How much is the fine?”
 
“US $80.”
 
I said, “That’s a lot. What’s my pensionado (retiree) discount?” He laughed and I paid $40 and went on my way.   This happens anywhere; in the country or in the city.
 
Serious corruption like you would have with drug lords is all over. It extends through South America, Spain, probably in America, in New York. It is the same as everywhere.
 
You do not have to pay protection to the police if you open up a business. However, if they confiscate drugs, maybe they sell it among the police. I can expect that the police fairly enforce the laws.
 
(Panamanian police patrolling, pictured.)
David Whittington of Tucan Golf Club and Resort – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The police are pretty good here in Panama.  In my day-to-day life, I don’t ever feel that I’m in any danger of being treated unfairly.
 
Friends of mine have been stopped by police for infractions like speeding in Panama.  They have told me that, from time to time, and only if the officer asks you, you can “pay the fine right there” (maybe $20 or so) and be on your way.  However, you must be very careful not to be the one to be the one to offer anything or mention anything that can be considered a bribe.  If you do, you can be charged with a crime. 
Lourdes Townshend of Multimodal  & Logistic Transports Magazine – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Police Work in Panamá
 
Panamá is known for his warm friendly people, natural beauty and the Canal (one of the "Eight Wonders of the World"), which is why Panamá was chosen to be the #1 tourist and relocation destination.  Panamá​ is a country where family and moral values are on top of everything.  Life is relaxing in Panamá and oriented to enjoy happiness in a very healthy environment, with beautiful weather all year round, and no earthquakes, snow or tornados.
 
That´s what  attracted visitors.  Not the other way around.
 
The police force in Panamá is there to interact with the community in a friendly way, to protect nationals and foreigners from the bad guys.  Maybe one "bad apple" mixes into 15,000  excellent police officers; you just can´t avoid that.  The world is not perfect.
 
But would you avoid a country because it has prostitution or if drugs in that country were legal?   Most probably not, because these countries have millions and millions of visitors every year. 
 
Panamá confiscates a considerable amount of illegal drugs every year and does lots of other very good law enforcement work, thanks to the extraordinary effort of our police force.  The government makes an invaluable effort to train all law enforcement personal to do honest work and increase their methods and effectiveness, including providing equipment and technology for the ultimate great job, and fight crime in this globalized world, where the criminals get more and more creative every day.
 
 
Vannessa Solano of Activentas, S.A. – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
You still do bribe people here in Panama, but it doesn’t happen often and depends on the situation.  For example, if you get stopped for speeding, you are taking a chance if you try to bribe the police, because most of them are very honest and if you try to bribe them they can actually take you to jail.  Most of the people don’t do this any longer.  Of course, once in a while, you will have a police officer who will ask you “How can we fix this?” but this is increasingly rare.
Col Davis Stevenson RET of Condor Tours & Travel, Inc – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
How corrupt are the police in Panama and do I need to bribe them?  Wow, what a question
 
The best answer is that there is always the chance of being stopped by a bad cop. Usually when I am stopped and there is a hint of asking for money I usually ask for the cop's full name and if he has a badge number I also ask for that.
 
The area where you will find cops that are not on the level is on the highways outside of the city limits. If you are driving be very aware that the speed limits often change in a random way which leads to speeding if you are not careful. If you are a visitor always be on the watch for one of these crooked cops. If you are the victim of one of these cops, the best thing you can do is find the nearest police station and report the incident. These cops are banking on the fact that you are a traveler and that you will be leaving the country.  This seems to be the guiding rule when you are stopped.

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