To Be Trusted, You Must Be Trustworthy, LNP

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Police Inspector General Gregory Coleman and his team have begun reaching out to communities in an effort to sensitize residents about peaceful elections.

One of his recent visits was to Ganta, Nimba County where he called on residents of that populous city to build trust in the security sector. According to our Nimba County correspondent Ishmael Menkor, Col. Coleman and his team’s visit is part of the nationwide dialogue aimed at saying “Yes to peace, and no to violence.”

The visit, our correspondent said, included a parade and a town hall discussion, where residents were free to interact with senior police officers and express concerns they see as loopholes in the security sector.

The success of this effort, however, will come through if the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the rest of the security apparatus can conduct their activities more professionally in line with ethics and a sense of humanity. The conduct of our postwar police and immigration officers has over the years resulted in public distrust to which we can attribute mob justice and other forms of lawlessness.

It is an inarguable fact that many police and immigration officers take bribes from commercial drivers and motorcyclists and harassing them at various checkpoints in the country. Late last year, a report about police harassment along the Monrovia-Ganta Highway was published in this newspaper. In April 2012, commercial drivers halted activities for a day in protest against constant harassment by police and immigration officers. During her last press conference in 2015, former United States Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah R. Malac, said “Liberians should not only look for corruption at the highest levels in government, but the lower levels as well. Police officers are in the habit of taking bribes and harassing drivers, and this is corruption.”

Bribes pervert justice and make evildoers find pleasure in committing evil, while the innocent resort to lawless acts. Remember what happened in 2015 in Ganta when residents took to the streets and set ablaze a house owned by businessman Prince Howard. The angry residents would not wait on police investigation because of lack of trust. Instead, they immediately took the law into their hands by setting the building ablaze upon hearing that Mr. Howard was allegedly connected to the murder of a motorcyclist. In Deuteronomy 16:19 of the Bible, God told Moses to warn judges and officers of Israel with these words, “Ye shall not pervert justice; ye shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.”

As a security entity that must earn public trust, you are under obligation to lay the premise by instituting justice. If, Col. Coleman, your goal is to be achieved, then you must first discipline your officers to stop them from taking bribes; take tougher actions against officers caught in unprofessional acts; and clearly communicate the duties of the police to the public as well as the citizens’ own responsibilities regarding the law. These, coupled with other ethical behaviors instilled in the Police Force will help to eliminate mistrust people have in the LNP, and the Immigration. So, if you are to be trusted, live by your ethics. This is one tangible way to build public trust.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The Liberia National Police leadership will typically need to adopt a proactive approach in building trust.
    Their relative power and previous, often longstanding histories of police abuse and neglect will demand that they show good faith by taking the first steps. These early steps will need to be concrete and transparent in nature, laying a foundation in performance that will enable favourable public
    assessments of competence, reliability and self-control in the police to emerge. Third-party intervention through, inter alia, oversight and accountability, provides a level of formal reassurance that competence and accountability will be enhanced. The element of transparency, through the provision of relevant information, ensures that the public can verify for itself that the police are performing well, or that where they are not, that appropriate corrective action is being taken.

    Proactive change by the police requires starting from the top. It means that the police, especially at the highest levels, act conspicuously in ways that demonstrate their commitment to democratic accountability and the Rule of Law. Leadership should be evident not just with respect to limiting the use of coercion but
    also in the areas of anti-corruption, greater responsiveness to citizen requests for assistance and more attention to crime reduction and public safety measures. In other words, the influence of new values and sources of values needs to be demonstrated and communicated from the top down.
    Above all, internal forms of accountability need to be seen to be working properly. This means senior police accepting responsibility for poor performance, taking firm action against police personnel who have performed poorly or corruptly and encouraging and supporting those whistleblowers who disclose areas of poor police performance.

    Across the police organization, acting fairly (procedural justice) and consistently with the core citizen safety function are crucial. Fair procedures, Tyler and his colleagues suggest, often matter as much as if not more than ‘hard results’ in terms of trust-building. In the police context, the explanation for this may lie partly in their visibility, relative to other ways of evaluating police work, as well as in their openness to citizen involvement (control). Showing concern for citizens, and avoiding rudeness in dealings with them, are relatively simple steps to implement that seem to offer positive payoffs for police (Sherman, 2003). However, in low-trust environments, especially where there is a history of violence or chronic conflict, improved substantive outcomes for citizens are also likely to be rated highly by them; this is consistent with the notion of reflective trust. Overall, positive regard for police reform can only be enhanced by police acceptance of higher standards for measuring performance and addressing performanceshortcomings. Institutional norms and practice must be brought into clear alignment with citizens’ interests and needs for safety and reassurance (influence). To quote Levi again, to ‘earn the trust of the citizens, government
    actors place themselves in institutional arrangements that structure their incentives so as to make their best options those in which their individual benefits depend on the provision of the collective benefit’.1

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