The New Police Act approved July 22, 2016 and published October 5, 2016 repealed the Executive Law with respect to the Liberia National Police (LNP), making this law enforcement institution a public institution that should serve, protect and enforce the law impartially.
Under the Declaration of Principles in this Act, the Police is to ensure the safety, security, protection of life and property and respect for human rights. The Police are also under obligation to respect the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Liberian Constitution, adherence to international human rights standards, respect for the equality of men and women and gender equity.
Most importantly, and for the purpose of this editorial, Section (L) of the New Police Act states: “The establishment of the Liberia National Police, which shall be strictly nonpartisan and exercise its powers and functions exclusively at the service of the state.”
Carefully considering this principle that compels even the citizens to respect the police as a state institution, there are instances over this two-year period of the current administration that make anyone to deduce that the LNP is not for the state, but a partisan body taking direct instructions from members of the ruling party and brutalizing anyone involved in confrontation with members of the CDC even if partisans of the CDC infringe on the right of others.
We saw on December 19 how a thuggish group popularly referred to as “Sabu Unit” took with them cutlasses and other deadly weapons, stood at VAMOMA House, blocked and attacked supporters of talk show host and Chairman of the Council of Patriots (COP), Henry Costa, while they were on their way to central Monrovia.
The police stood and witnessed the attack, according to our reporters, and began firing teargas at followers of Costa leaving out the attackers.
Interestingly, the Liberia National Police has always been a spectator of violence in recent times, especially when such violence is perpetrated by members of the CDC.
We recall in Montserrado District #13 last year during the by-election of that district when a thuggish group controlled by Monrovia City Mayor, Jefferson Koijee, disrupted campaign activities of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) and wounded some people. The Police did not make any arrest, and the Justice Ministry has not intervened to bring the perpetrators to justice.
In Montserrado District #15 in July this year, Telia Urey of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) escaped death and her vehicle was damaged beyond repair at the hands of supporters of Abu Kamara, a CDC candidate in the by-election of that district. The video which went viral showing officers of the Liberia National Police standing and they, too, video-graphing the incident without any attempt to save life and property in accordance with their mandate and principles.
Also, in this 2019, the public saw over 50 police officers early in the morning at the residence of Montserrado District #10 Representative Yekeh Kolubah, attempting to arrest him for a crime which the police itself is yet to fully establish the lawmaker committed. A few weeks later, Montserrado County District #8 Representative Acarous Gray was accused of assaulting and wounding a man, but was never arrested or even invited by the Police.
Recently, about a month ago, a notorious rebel commander indicted in the TRC report for committing crimes against humanity, Augustine Nagbe (alias General Power), spoke of forming a “Kru Defense Force” to fight people he claims are “Enemies” of President Weah. In fact, this desperado claimed that the security in the country cannot protect the President.
Following his outlandish assertions, which were widely condemned by the public, the LNP through its spokesperson, Moses Carter, reluctantly invited ‘General Power’ to clarify his statements. But since then, the public is yet to hear the outcome of this invitation.
However, it is trending on social media that a lot of people including some of our staff, have seen ‘General Power’ training a reactionary force called ‘Sabu and Zebra’ Units at the 47 condominium compound of President Weah opposite the Baptist Seminary.
Besides the LNP’s usual harassment of taxi and bus drivers which US State Department’s reports have mentioned many times, officers in this short period of time in the Weah Administration have often clashed with unarmed civilians and, in some instances, opening live fire at them.
It can be recalled that in June this year, officers of the LNP opened fire at civilians in Kingsville, Montserrado County, killing one person and wounding another. The Police in October this year were also recorded for brutalizing and wounding high school students of the Monrovia Consolidated School System who took to the streets in solidarity protests against the non-payment of their teachers’ salary arrears which had been outstanding for months. The motivation for their solidarity protests stemmed from the fact that their teachers had boycotted classes for weeks leaving them in a quandary.
These student protests and the manner in which the Police has responded has created public distrust in the Police and undermined whatever good intentions and professional ethics to which its leadership may have professed to have or aspired to.
While the Police has consistently urged the citizenry to respect the Police, it remains unclear how such respect would be engendered when Police conduct towards the public is one of general contempt and disrespect for the rule of law.
This paper, the Daily Observer, will like to caution the police that it has a duty to serve the state; both the leaders and citizens, and an obligation to protect human rights. Remember, Liberia is a signatory to many human rights protocols and its own Constitution has provisions binding on everyone to respect including the Police.
As a cautionary note to the Police, ordinary citizens will not accord their respect should the conduct of its officers fall short of its ethics and duty to serve and protect the public.
The Police under its current leadership should be aware that public trust in this institution is vanishing fast and may completely dissipate if care and concrete steps are not taken to restore public confidence. This is a charge and duty from which it cannot shirk.