Liberia: LNP Conduct Baseline Assessment Survey – Human Rights Watch Report Reverberates
Monrovia – Barely two days after the US- based human rights group, Human Rights Watch, released a scathing report on corruption in the Liberian Police force that found that Liberia’s Police often act as “predators” robbing people of money and goods rather than protecting them, the Liberia National Police has said that it in concert with the United Nations Mission in Liberia is conducting a nationwide baseline assessment survey of the LNP.
Human Rights Watch found that street vendors and taxi drivers are the main victims of Police criminality, in its report titled ‘No Money, No Justice’, released on Thursday.
The LNP in a release issued over the weekend said the aim of this project is to develop a comprehensive baseline assessment which documents the institutional progress of the LNP recognizing its strength and weaknesses whilst providing opportunities for further development of the LNP at all levels.
“The expected results of the joint baseline assessment are: To map the progress of the LNP in six areas of the LNP strategic plan namely 1. Governance and Accountability 2. Operational Effectiveness and Efficiency 3. Administration 4. Human Resource development and Training 5. Cross Cutting Issues 6. Regional stability and International cooperation,” states the release.
“To review and establish LNP’s current operation performance and capacity. In particular to target its efficiency and effectiveness in the maintenance of law, crime prevention, community policing and the overall disciplinary conduct of LNP officers. To identify benchmarks and indicators that will be used as a point of reference for monitoring and evaluation on the progress of the LNP.”
It said the move is also to review current monitoring and evaluation tools to identify gaps and provide clear indicators for strengthening the LNP and to draft comprehensive assessments report for each of the five LNP regions plus all departments, stations, Zones, depots and details.
The Police said in order to achieve these expected results, a Joint Team of LNP and UNMIL staffs has embarked on conducting assessment survey in selected countries in all Police regions as well as Montserrado County and the LNP headquarters.
“The collected data will then be analyzed and compiled. A baseline assessment report on the LNP will be published base on the available information that is currently being collected by the Joint Team,” states the LNP release.
The noted in its press statement that the Baseline Assessment Survey will take into consideration the opinions of stakeholders in the Liberian society including, community members, civil society, and Police officer deployed in all of the fifteen political subdivisions of the country.
It said the Assessment Team which is currently in Montserrado County has just completed the survey in the various communities and Police stations and is expected to visit the Central Headquarters of the Liberia National Police on Capitol Hill in continuation of the ongoing survey.
“While at the LNP Headquarters the Assessment Team will hold discussions with various heads of Departments and Sessions, and other senior officers,” states the release.
The LNP states that the outcome of the survey will lead to the development of a new five-year strategic plan of the LNP, which it is hoping will lead or help to enhance LNP service delivery to the people. The current five year Strategic Plan expires in 2013.
“It aim was to provide the framework by which continued development will ensure a professional and sustainable LNP. Many of the remaining projects have either not been started or attempts to have been made but they are unrealistic, unachievable or do not come under the remit of the LNP to progress,” the release noted.
“The plan has 35 strategic development projects completed and work is going on 87 projects, many of which need little or no funding to complete. With the end of the strategic plan and moving forward, it is timely to conduct a baseline assessment of the LNP to accurately mark their progress while at the same time, identify challenges and opportunities to further professionalize the LNP.”
The Police notes that this baseline assessment would feed into a new or updated strategic development framework of the LNP with the aim to provide specific, measurable, achievable and realistic goals for the LNP at all level.
It states that the findings of the Baseline Assessment survey are expected to also help reduce perceive Police corruption and indiscipline or unethical behavior on the part of officers within the LNP thereby giving rise to high level professionalism and ethical behavior on the part of officers in the performance of their duty and functions.
The Police release comes on the heels of the Human Rights Watch report accusing the force of rampant corruption. Liberia’s Police and army are expected to take a greater responsibility for security as the United Nations reduces its 18,000-strong force in Liberia to 3,750 by 2015, but many Liberians told HRW that the armed units of the Police were very similar to the armed robbers.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher Valerie Brender told the BBC in an interview that rampant corruption in the Police force was impeding Liberia’s development and efforts to promote justice after a 14-year conflict that killed more than 200,000 people.
“The Police all too often act as predators on Liberians rather than protectors of their rights engaging in criminal conduct themselves,” she said.
“Many Liberians told us that the armed units of the Police were very similar to the armed robbers because what the armed units did was the same thing as what the armed robbers did – which is making off with their cell phones, their money, sometimes engaging in brutality in the process.”
The report was based on interviews with 120 people and 35 Police officers of all ranks. In one account, a resident of the capital, Monrovia, told HRW that the elite Police Support Unit came to his home, kicked him, held his wife at gunpoint and stole money she had hidden in her bra.
Police behaviour was similar to tactics used by government security forces during the civil war, according to the report and it also reflected frustration within the Police force over low salaries and inadequate supplies. Th report also revealed that Lower-ranking officers were also forced to pay bribes to their superiors to gain promotions.
“The brunt of daily Police bribery, extortion and theft in Liberia is borne by those in society scrambling near the bottom of the financial ladder to feed themselves and their families,” it added.
“These are the street vendors, motorcycle drivers, and taxi drivers living hand-to-mouth whose commercial activities put them in constant contact with Police at checkpoints, random stops, and street raids.”
HRW urged the Liberian government should strengthen the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and establish a civilian oversight body to keep a check on Police conduct.