The Inspector General (IG) of Police, Gregory Coleman, admitted on Friday that police officers have been using intimidation to demand respect from the public.
“Over the years, we have seen police compelling respect by using intimidation, but that practice must change because it is now time that mutual trust and respect be built by means of cooperation and collaboration between the police and the community,” he said.
Coleman’s remarks were made at the launch of a project headlined, “Strengthening the Trust and Confidence of the Population and Security Institutions through the Enhancement of Civil Society’s Empowerment in the Security Sector Reform (SSR) Process in Liberia,” at LNP headquarters in Monrovia.
The need to foster a strong relationship between the community and the police can only be sustained on the basis of mutual respect, Coleman explained.
“As we come closer to the 2017 presidential and legislative elections the only way we can be able to succeed and preserve the peace we are enjoying is to give legitimacy to the people we serve,” the IG stated.
He added: “If the people do not trust us, and they do not believe in our ability to protect them, then that becomes a problem so we have to ensure that we build that mutual trust and respect with the community.”
Coleman said the more the Police keep the lines of communication open it will increase their legitimacy. “We have to support each other in a manner that we can preserve our fragile peace and see a smooth transition at the end of the October elections and build a strong democracy.
“The pillar to good governance is justice and we are committed to ensuring as a member of the security sector responsible for access to justice that justice is served and the people we are serving are protected,” Coleman said.
He pledged the Police’s support to work with civil society organizations in the achievement of the project’s objectives.
“We stand with the civil society and stand ready to join them in the process as it is one of my major priorities to seeing that mutual trust and respect are built with the community,” he noted.
Mr. Simon Blatchly, UNMIL’s Police Commissioner, said the project was very important because it seeks to deepen civil society’s engagement in the governance of the security sector.
“The fundamentals in the UN’s work on security sector reform is a national ownership to which civil society is a key partner in ensuring that the SSR process is nationally driven and owned,” Blatchly said.
He noted that involvement of civil society organizations in the SSR process will aid the building of the public’s confidence in the project as well as in national security institutions.
“UNMIL firmly believes that the same level of interest will be seen in the execution of the project,” the UNMIL Police Chief said.
Cecil Griffith of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia said the project will create awareness in five counties – Bong, Grand Bassa, Margibi and Montserrado – to discuss the new security architecture and the efforts to create accountability structures within the security sector.
“We are going to conduct workshops within three universities – University of Liberia, AME and Cuttington– about the new security act that will be facilitated by the LNP, Armed Forces of Liberia and the Liberia Immigration Service,” Griffith noted.
The launch, which was held at the headquarters of the LNP, brought together members of the security sector, the United Nations in Liberia (UNMIL) and civil society organizations.