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Rules of engagement requested

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Lofa County Senator Steve Zargo says prevailing national security imperatives here is a necessary condition for clear-cut rules of engagement that must be drafted by Liberia with assistance from the UN

Peacekeeping Mission – UNMIL, before its full departure. Delivering a keynote address on 24 October at the Liberia National Police Training Academy in Paynesville during a combined graduation ceremony for 413 Police and Drug Enforcement Agency officers, Sen.

Zargo suggested that the police and other security operatives be guided by the rules of engagement. The former senior police officer who became a lawyer and then an elected Senator in last December observed that the boundary for law enforcement in the United States expanded in 1997 after the American Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act.

As Liberia prepares to assume full national security responsibilities from UNMIL, according to Sen. Zargo, his attention was drawn to a set of rules that sharply regulates the latitude of law enforcement and a system of accountability and authority of law enforcement agencies to act where police stations are set ablaze and law enforcement officers come under attack.

“This has become common in Liberia – the most recent being in Ganta, Nimba County,” he said, citing the passage of an Act by Congress in the United States granting police and other agencies the right to obtain weaponry for specialized law enforcement purposes to help in making arrests.

“Many US Police Departments have since acquired surplus US Military hardware, amour vehicles, military grade weaponry; and after 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security allowed local law enforcement to inherit … for military weaponry from war abroad through Federal fund to counter-terrorism,” Sen. Zargo said.

Making reference to Human Rights Monitor, the keynote Speaker said police in Belgium “are legally entitled to use proportionate force” after a warning, and where there is no other means to achieve a legitimate objective, police may use fire arms in self-defense to confront armed robbery and armed perpetrator.

He said this is also done in defense of persons of peace and facilities, but “never for crowd control,” adding, “in Afghanistan, the police can use explosives against a group of people only if they have disturbed public peace and security by means of arms,” among others.

He finally recalled that on 15 December 2014, the UN adopted a resolution in which it called on the Liberian Government to assume fully its complete security responsibilities from UNMIL no later than 30 June 2016.

In remarks, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said it was now time for police and community engagement, urging the police to engage the leadership and people in communities so that they all are there to address a common problem of protecting the people.

She said it can only be done if the people and communities are all in partnership with each another. Police Director Chris C. Massaquoi said the graduation was part of the efforts of police authorities to fast-track the achievement of the benchmark of 8,000 police officers by 2016 prior to UNMIL’s departure.

The Liberia National Police Training Academy or LNPTA Commandant Atty. J. Titus Kimba said a total of 417 cadets – both from the LNP and DEA, commenced training on March 29, 2015, but 413 completed and graduated after others dropped or were thrown out.

The graduates included 101 DEA officers and 312 police officers -majority of them males. During the graduation ceremony, Deputy Police Director for Administration, Mr. William K. Mulbah, presented a new LNP Band, obtained on July 26 following President Sirleaf’s intervention.

“We are pleased on behalf of the Inspector General [Police Director], the men and women of the Liberia National Police and in my own name to say Madam President here is the fruit of your labor; thank you very much Madam,” he said.

By Winston W. Parley

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