Lapses in SSR Spur Public Fear over UNMIL Drawdown

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United Nations Mission in Liberia’s (UNMIL) gradual drawdown is instilling fear among Liberians and foreign residents alike as a result of numerous lapses contained in the Security Sector Reform (SSR) exercises spearheaded by that body.
These lapses are clearly evident in the performances of the national security apparatus, especially the Liberia National Police, a detailed study conducted by an official of the Governance Commission, has revealed.
The study was conducted by Dr. Yarsuo Weh-Dorliae, one of the commissioners at the GC with oversight on decentralization. It reveals that the manner in which LNP officers were recruited, coupled with the manner in which they were trained has created a bad public perception about the force thereby lowering public confidence in the police. That situation is detrimental to the maintenance of law and order (peace and stability) in the absence of UNMIL.
Making a presentation on the SSR yesterday in Monrovia, Dr. Dorliae said the purpose of the study was to understand how UNMIL’s training affected effectiveness of performance and public confidence in the ability of the LNP to maintain law and order, that the result proved otherwise. The presentation was titled: “UNMIL Training of Liberia National Police: Effectiveness, Results, and Future Implications.”
Analysis of UNMIL’s reform exercise revealed mixed results and impacts on the effectiveness of police performance in the country. The findings further indicated that the adverse impacts are not entirely training related but also resulted from the behavior of the Government of Liberia towards its police force. Some of these negative impacts are the results of low salaries, lack of incentives and lack of logistical support.
Quantitative data were used to address impacts of UNMIL’s police training on the maintenance of law and order. The data, according to Dr. Dorliae, were collected through a researcher-developed survey which measures recruitment, training, effectiveness of performance and public confidence in the police. Participants were 120 persons drawn from government officials, some of them senior officials, UNMIL officials, LNP and members of the Civil Society Organization (CSO).
He also indicated that a qualitative semi-structured interview data were also gathered from 18 additional participants to address the challenges for quality improvement in the performance of the police.
The findings indicated that there were some lapses in the recruitment process conducted by UNMIL because people who committed heinous crimes during the civil crisis were recruited. Sufficient background investigation was not done during the recruitment exercises, leading to criminals being recruited.
It also indicated that recruitment and vetting were exhausted, candidates were not investigated with due diligence regarding their character and human rights records.
The findings indicated that people were afraid to speak during the recruitment process because they were afraid of reprisals. “People did not feel free to express themselves because there was no guarantee of confidentiality.”
People even in high ranking positions in the LNP confided that the training exercises were disjointed, the finding reported.
The finding alleges that the government does not see the police as its responsibility, but rather as that of the international community because it was the international community that spearheaded the entire process with little or no interest from the government.
Quantitative findings also indicate a moderately significant correlation between police perceived knowledge and job performance, thus implying that UNMIL’s training effected some changes relative to the maintenance of law and order.
However, the diversity of trainers from contrasting policing jurisdiction produced an outcome that lacked a country-specific context for Liberia, a common law country with a criminal justice system and policing tradition patterned after that of the United States.
The findings showed that the government failed to take ownership of the LNP reform exercise and to provide leadership and adequate resource support to complement the training due to its weak commitment.
On the level of performance, the findings overwhelmingly showed that it is capable of maintaining law and order, though some of their training cannot be put into practice as a result of lack of some essential logistics.
“Some police officers have been trained in forensic investigation. They learned these things in well equipped laboratories where they were trained, but they cannot apply that knowledge here because of lack of logistics,” the report quotes a high ranking LNP official.
Lower ranking police officers are not effective in performing their duties because of constant interference from the boss or higher-hands. The finding indicated that the police is state-centric rather than people centered; as a result they tend to protect the powers that be than the public. “
International police reform has become an integral component of post conflict peacekeeping and state building operations of the UN, with the overarching objective being to build stable democracies in those post-conflict fragile states. This has not always been the case though an effective police force is a critical component of sustainable state-building and democratic governance.
Liberia’s democratic theory justifies the necessity for an effective police force as an embodiment of state authority for upholding the rule of law and protecting the democratic political and socio-economic processes (human rights, investment that provide jobs, elections) that are crucial to maintaining stability in a democracy.
He, however, recommended that government and UNMIL must collaborate to professionalize, depoliticize and structure the LNP as a semi autonomous service institution; and situate the force in its common law criminal justice system with organization, structure and rank catalog harmonized with its police tradition.
The UN post-conflict international police training mission in the future should be driven by what is required to implement training specific to host country’s policing needs and not by availability of funding and donors.

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