The Center for Transparency and accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) in partnership with the British Embassy has begun a four-month partnership with five communities in order to bring the Liberian National Police (LNP) under the spotlight, with a focus on “Broadening Police and Communities’ Interaction to Fight Corruption and Improve Police Service Delivery.”
According to Mr. Sarnyenneh M. Dickson, Project Coordinator Police and You project, told the Press recently that the overall objective is to improve public confidence in police service by getting authorities to support sustained police—community relations, reduce corruption, and improve performance and service delivery. Montserrado county and its suburb are target areas of this initiative for the time being.
Speaking generally about the police, Mr. Dickson said: “The negative perception of the LNP is widespread. Let’s take a few minutes to look at some of these perceptions.
As you are undoubtedly aware, the LNP has consistently been portrayed as corrupt, and in some cases unprofessional, by a significant portion of the Liberian public. Allegations of unprofessional police conduct have resulted in a tense relationship between police officers and communities. Perception reports about this include that of Transparency International (TI), Human Right Watch (“no money, no justice” 2013) and that of National Integrity Forum (Integrity Barometer
Report 2013) paint a very grim picture about Police corruption in Liberia.
TI reported in its 2013 Global Corruption Barometer that 94% of people interviewed believe our police corrupt, albeit, extremely corrupt. The Human Right Watch Report described police engagement with citizens as “justice is not for the poor,” or “No money, no Justice.” The local NIF’s Integrity Barometer Report said that they were often asked by police to pay extra money or do a favor for the services they received.”
At many of CENTAL’s communities around the counties, citizens have say that even though the police are frontline of law enforcement, some of them do not behave as they should.
Citizens have also alleged police brutality and hostility including neglect of their post-arrest obligations to citizen in helping to contact relatives and friends about the whereabouts of arrested persons. Even media coverage of the police sometimes depicts an unfavorable representation of the LNP, displaying ghastly scenes of police brutality as well as abuse of human rights.
Though police authorities have denied or refuted some of these allegations, public confidence in the police continues to drop. We need to go beyond to create a better image of our police force so that it regains the respect and confidence of the public.
He said, the fact remains that the police is faced with this widely held negative perception, it will be unfair and hypocritical to put the blame squarely on their lap, especially when he entire society is enmeshed in corruption. There is no denying that corruption is widely practice in Liberia especially with the high level of poverty and social vulnerability.
Many assessment reports have indicated that most of our vital institutions are corrupt. This means that the entire Liberian the society is saddled with corruption which is a major impediment to development.
Mr. Dickson said, CENTAL anticipates that by supporting the building of integrity in the police, their mode of interaction with citizens will lead to more secure communities and the consolidation of peace.
He said the police will be seen more as an ally and a foe. “With the right mechanisms and programs, communities can also gain information and knowledge of the workings of the police and how they can meaningfully support police work. Such increased openness on the part of the police would lead to improved service delivery, community acceptance, support for its works and increased morale.”
Police spokesperson Sam Collins said he welcomes the idea and promised to work with CENTAL and will be willing to share with community dwellers the work of the police.