— Cllr. Arthur Johnson
A prominent Liberian lawyer, Cllr. Arthur Tamba Johnson has strongly condemned what he claims is “the action by the Liberia National Police to always tamper with crime scenes ahead of the conduct of criminal investigations.”
In a podcast recently after the mysterious deaths of Albert Peters and Victoria Lamah, two employees of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), Cllr. Johnson said most times criminal investigations in Liberia produce no good outcomes because crime scenes are usually not protected from unauthorized persons by the Police.
Cllr. Arthur Johnson is the head of the Consortium of Legal Practitioners (CLP), a law firm established by him. He is also an instructor of Criminal Justice at the African Methodist Episcopal Zion University (AMEZU) and a couple of other professional schools offering the same subject.
It may be recalled that when the remains of Albert Peters and Victoria Asmah Lamah (Gifty) were uncovered in a vehicle on Broad Street in central Monrovia, the Liberia National Police admitted a number of errors, including not protecting the scene. However, in its own defense, Chief of Police Patrick Sudue said the lapses by his men were not egregious enough to contaminate the evidence or interfere with the investigation.
“Crime scenes must be protected at all times in order to help in an investigation to come out with the right information connected to the mysterious death of a person. The Police are not to touch the surfaces of the crime scenes with their bare hands, neither is any other group of people allowed to do so,” he said.
He added: “As a criminal investigator, I don’t want to believe that where the car was parked on Broad Street was indeed the crime scene. I don’t want to believe that that scene is the possible crime scene. It was faked.”
Johnson said fingerprints, saliva and other specimens on the lifeless bodies of people suspected to have died mysteriously are very important in a forensic criminal investigation.
He said no one should have gone ahead to open the vehicle in which the deceased persons were, but should have been done using special hand gloves.
He emphasized that the Liberia National Police (LNP) lacks the needed logistics to do their work and that the forensic lab at the LNP headquarters is not up to standard, thereby leading to faulty investigation reports always published by the police.
Johnson admonished the government to do all it can to find the perpetrators who ‘murdered’ Victoria Lamah and Albert Peters or else, it will be unerased that the country is unsafe and not necessary for investment.
Moses Carter, Spokesperson of the Liberia National Police (LNP), said while the LNP admitted to some procedural errors on October 2 following the mysterious deaths of Peters and Lamah, Cllr. Johnson’s assertion that police officers contribute to tampering with crime scenes is unfounded.
“Cllr. Johnson has the right to say what he says but we have to be mindful of what we say out there to the public. The truth is what matters, not just individual opinions,” Carter explained.
He said at no time did the Police go to a crime scene without following all of the necessary crime investigation protocols including the use of the requisite equipment needed to give the investigation its true value.
Carter called on anyone who has an interest in seeing how equipped the LNP forensic lab is to visit his office to see what they have.
“Our lab is well equipped and those who operate it are trained and up to the task. There is no need to lie to the public. This is why, since this administration came to power, we have always concluded investigations and presented to the public our reports,” Carter claims.
“About how some individual members of our society think about Police operations, we don’t have control over that but what I can say is that we are doing our job in the confines of the law and to the best of our capacity,” he said.
The Police spokesman added that all those wearing the Liberia National Police uniform were properly trained and are up to the task.
“Alone or as part of the joint security, the LNP is not an underdog force. We have our professional men and women in uniform who are doing their utmost best in ensuring that lives and properties are protected,” said Carter.
He added: “With accident or mysterious death, we equally regret the situation but they are usually ahead of us all as human beings. All we can do is to investigate and find the cause, and at the same time bring the perpetrators to justice.”