A submission of an act by Presiding Ellen Johnson Sirleaf seeking autonomy for the Liberia National Police (LNP) through legislative actions has fueled a new debate here.
The instrument, which was submitted to members of the Legislature on Tuesday August 29, seeks to ensure that appointed senior officials at the LNP are given a tenure status, a move that could enable them to function independently void of political manipulation.
The president’s request come barley 42 days to the presidential and legislative elections. The President has for the remaining month being seeking to put in place legislations that will not only preserve the current peace but maintain such through such standards.
When passed into law, the Act could set the bar to prevent elected political leaders removing police chiefs from office simply on personal differences instead of misconduct, something that could undermine the independence of the police.
Under Section 22.77 (b) of the Liberia National Police Act of 2015 passed and published on 5 October 2016, the Inspector General and Deputies of the police force shall be terminated or removed from offices for “proven misconduct, gross breach of duties and malfeasance and nonfeasance.”
Notwithstanding these legal provisions that justify the removal of police chiefs, it is common knowledge in Liberia that presidents and other influential political leaders would unjustifiably replace police chiefs upon being awarded state power to have their confidants take charge regardless their professional standing.
But in an effort to professionalize the police force, the 2015 Police Act calls for the appointment of the Inspector General and Deputies of the LNP with the consent of the Senate.
It says such officers shall be persons of proven integrity, high moral standards and indisputable competence in matters relating to the security sector and a graduate from a university with at least a bachelor’s degree.
In addition to standards set for police chiefs in the 2015 Police Act, the law also indicates that officers who may not meet the minimum criteria for admission into the organization to occupy an office, post or rank created by the Police Act of 2015 published on 5 October 2016, may see themselves thrown out for failure to regularize their positions.
“All persons currently in the employ of the Liberia National Police, who do not meet the minimum criteria for admission according to the criteria stated in this Act or for encumbering an Office, Post, or Rank created by this Act or by Regulations of Administrative Instructions made thereunder, and who have not otherwise been certified as having met that criteria, shall have no more than one calendar year to regularize their positions or leave the Liberia National Police or the Office, Post, or Rank,” the law says.
In an effort to professionalize the LNP, government passed and published a Police Act of 2015 in October last year that requires a physically and mentally fit Liberian citizen between ages 18 and 35 who has graduated from high school or has an equivalent status to join the force.
With just about a month ahead to mark a complete year since the new Police Act of 2015 was published on 5 October 2016, officers who may have ignored calls to upgrade their credentials in order to maintain offices, ranks or status could just be risking their chances of holding on to posts after October 5, 2017.
Under Section 22.88 (b) of the Police Act of 2015, the law requires a police officer not to be holder of any office in a political party or similar organization and does not openly engage in party political activities.
Subsequent subsections in this provision say eligibility to be an officer is that one must have clean criminal record excluding minor traffic violations and is not facing any criminal charge or subject to any investigation for gross human rights violations.
The Act bars anyone who commits war crime, crime against humanity or any crime that violates International Human Rights Conventions from joining the police.
The law additionally makes it mandatory that officers must have successfully undertaken a basic police training course at the Liberia National Police Training Academy and Training School or an equivalent institution.–By Winston W. Parley, editing by Othello B. Garblah