A Wake-up Call to the Liberia National Police (LNP)

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They are captured in photos standing there holding aloft banners bearing the portrait of President Weah. It was as if this was intended to be a CDC rally and not a solemn requiem service for the fallen legislator, the late Representative Adolph A. Lawrence. The events which unfolded on the grounds of the Capitol as described by Daily Observer reporter David Menjor, who was in the thick of the action, clearly suggests that the CDC supporters trooped to the grounds of the Capitol with an agenda-to abort the requiem service for the fallen legislator with a show of force and violence.

And the nation watched with shock and horror as scores of thuggish elements sporting CDC t-shirts and caps and chanting battle cries succeeded in disrupting what would have otherwise been a solemn requiem service. They showed little regard and respect for the dead man and his bereaved family all because he had differed with some policies of the Weah led government as they scampered about the grounds of the Capitol like a pack of hunting dogs.

Even legislators, according to eye witness accounts were not spared their wrath. Senator Steve Zargo was one of such persons according to on the spot accounts by our reporter. He was actively prevented from entering the rotunda of the Capitol. Shockingly and very disappointingly, the Police, present in their numbers and clad in riot gear, allowed it to happen right before their eyes.

When the Daily Observer contacted Police Spokesman, Inspector H. Moses Carter, to inquire why the Police did not take any action to check the unruly and thuggish behavior of the CDC militants, he denied, contrary to eyewitness accounts, that there wasn’t any violence at all. On why the Police did not intervene, he replied that it was because there was no physical contact between the thuggish group and sympathizers and supporters of the late Adolph Lawrence.

Such official police disposition to the violence on the grounds of the Capitol contradict the available evidence as captured on live video and in photos. More besides, there is a growing negative public perception of the Police under its current leadership. In one instance these lapses appear as though such is mere incompetence and, in yet another instance, partisanship. What or whichever the case, it raises questions about the efficacy of the Security Sector Reform (SSR) initiatives undertaken by the UN over the last 12 years.

It is no secret that Public perception of the Police is very poor and such demonstrated incompetence or ineptitude only reinforces this perception. And it goes without saying that this has implications for the rule of law and the dispensation of unadulterated justice. Police authorities should never lose sight of the lessons of the civil war and how the Force, through partisanship, tribalism and sectionalism proved to be inept, incompetent and, worse of all, not trusted but feared by the very people they vowed to “Serve and Protect”.

This newspaper bemoans what appears to be a clear lack of leadership in the Police and the security sector on a whole. For example, the virtual silence of the Justice Minister, who is head of the nation’s Joint Security, in the face of these untoward developments, is deeply troubling. Just why was the County Attorney of Montserrado jumping out of his place to become official spokesperson of the Justice Ministry, when this official ranks quite low in the pecking order of the Ministry?

Researcher Bruce Baker in a professional paper entitled: “Resource constraint and Policy in Liberia’s post -conflict policing” concludes that Policing policies adopted both by the government of Liberia and international partners have worsened the myriad difficulties faced by the Police whose roots lie in the lack of adequate support to the Police.

Moreover, according to him, Policing policies in post-conflict Liberia lack a proper multi-track approach that would make efficient use of “resources of commercial, community-based and customary policing”. Additionally, Baker notes effective policing has been “undermined by duplication; inadequate vetting processes; an absence of robust disciplinary processes; and a culture that is reactive, secretive, and reluctant to take initiative”.

And he further notes that “resource constraint should be allowed for, not as an excuse for bad policing, but as a reality that shapes appropriate policing policies”.

The Daily Observer notes that the growing levels of lawlessness in the country today can rightly be attributed to the fact that the root causes of the civil war have not been addressed. Impunity still looms large as there has been no accountability for perpetrators of gross human rights abuse.

In retrospect, it appears the international community accorded very little attention to local perceptions of insecurity. As a result, plans for security sector reform did not consider the context within which such reforms were to be implemented. The UN has since completed its withdrawal from Liberia and left on its own a country which appears to be in great difficulty finding its footing. Lawless behavior and disrespect for the rule of law are becoming common place.

Mob violence, gang warfare, armed robbery, political violence and crime have become daily headaches for many residents in Monrovia and there is no telling when or whether it will abate anytime soon. The recent violent incidents on the grounds of the Capitol should be considered a Wake-up Call to the leadership of the Liberia National Police (LNP) as well as the entire Joint Security apparatus to avoid a repeat of what occurred on last Thursday.

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