Liberia’s Police Chief Chris C. Massaquoi, says “It is a challenge to keep graduating officers and they do not have anything to work with,” as he wondered if graduating riot officers would be deployed with the “appropriate working tools.”
“What are the challenges? After you have been trained, how are you deployed? Are you going to be deployed with the appropriate working tools?,” Mr. Massaquoi pondered Friday, 5 February at the Liberia National Police Training Academy in Paynesville outside Monrovia while addressing the graduates.
Active riot officers from the Emergency Response Unit or ERU and the Police Support Unit or PSU graduated over the weekend after going through some training before their deployment at the community levels in some counties including Maryland, southeast Liberia to enhance community policing effort as the United Nations Mission in Liberia or UNMIL draws down.
But the Police Director says the question as to whether officers would be deployed with appropriate working tools was not only left with the police, but UNMIL counterparts and the Ministry of Justice, further requesting the ministry to convey the concern to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Mr. Massaquoi however expressed confidence despite the challenge, that the police force is “absolutely ready” for the UNMIL drawdown, claiming the force is ahead of other security institutions in terms of counter-terrorism preparation.
Pleading with those that have political connections with the Executive and Legislature to help in advocating for the police, he repeated that “the police need the tools to work with, saying “you cannot tie man’s hand and chunk [throw] him in the ocean and river and say go swim.”
He concluded that it becomes a major challenge if the police do not have the tools to work with.
Speaking earlier, the Commandant for Training and Manpower Development at the academy, Atty. J. Titus Kimba dismissed reports that recruits’ training for Class 44 was hampered, saying the Academy is on course.
Atty. Kimba further said the Academy is on course with the Justice Ministry providing all necessary support and assistance to make sure that renovation work on structures at the Academy can start.
The structures concerned were reported to have been destroyed due to heavy storm that hit the Academy in October 2015, but Atty. Kimba maintains that “nothing is wrong” in terms of the Justice Ministry’s support to get the renovation work started.
On behalf of Justice Minister Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, Deputy Justice Minister for Public Safety Cllr. Wheatonia Dixon Barnes reminded the officers that their fundamental duty was to serve Liberians, adding that with the UNMIL drawdown, officers’ professional engagement with the community and citizens will be very crucial.
She urged the graduating officers to have a good relationship with the community to the extent where community people would run to the officers, rather than run away from them.
“… If you respect yourself, people will respect you. The police are the first line of defense for civilians, not the military,” she said, urging the police and the community to work together in a relationship hat will keep “us safe” in Liberia.
In response to director Massaquoi’s request, Cllr. Barnes said “we” will assist in the advocacy for the police logistics needed to enhance their operations.Edited by Jonathan Browne