1 Policeman to 770 Sierra Leoneans!!!

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We survived Ebola but it looks like the post Ebola period is harder to survive, especially with the astronomical price hike and the uncontrollable inflation going at madness proportions. As if this is not enough for the poor population in the east, the police say bars should close at 11.00 pm. Some people call it a curfew. Reason for the Bar Curfew they say is to curb crime…well you go find the logic.
Justice is denied when power is used to exploit and oppress. When power damages, justice restores. Unless we address the root causes of poverty which are often linked with unjust systems, development will never last or be truly transformative. Justice is about relationships between people, between people and their government.
Out here in Sierra Leone, the moment there is a security breach, the easiest thing is to blame the police. When peaceful citizen’s lives are taken and properties are stolen, we say the police are not doing their work. For the sake of argument, let us say there are 16,000 people – men and women. Not all of these are directly detailed for security work. So let us say even 10,000 police are on security, this means it is about 770 sierra Leoneans to 1 Policeman. Do you see where the trouble begins?
For the police to be able to perform their roles well, it means they should have the right equipment, gears and materials to overpower thousands of hoodlums at a time without having to shoot and kill.
In 2005 Campaign for good Governance in their occasional paper series published a report titled: policing Agencies in Sierra Leone: An Evaluation. The research was done by Bruce Baker, senior Research Fellow, Coventry University, UK and Amadu Sidi Bah; research Officer, Campaign for Good Governance. I’ll be making some references to this paper. It is 11 years since the Paper was written. Is crime on the increase to date, if so why?
The police used to publish the annual Crime report, but I do not know how popularized this report is, if it is still polished. The afore-mentioned publication reports at the time that there were problems of under reporting to the police because of limited access, alternative resolution systems, embarrassment, fear of the police and desire for speedy justice.
One thing one needs to say is the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) has over the years undergone a lot of positive reforms that have enhanced their effectiveness. During the 10 year rebel carnage, about 900 SLP officers were killed and a considerable number suffered amputation. The size of the police force was therefore reduced from 9317 to 6,600. Interesting at that time, the 2,500 Operational Support Division (OSD), acted as the armed wing. The key duty of the OSD is providing mobile, armed support to the general duty officers, responsible for riot control, VIP Protection, guarding government facilities and working with major commercial security companies in high risk areas such as diamond mines.
It is unfortunate to say that with all the transformation the police have undergone over the years the OSDs still hunted by the bad name they earned for themselves during the one party system of government.
About a month ago the police said all bars in the east End of the Freetown should close down by 11.00 pm. Citizens in the East see this action as unfair as there are also incidents of robberies and murders in the central and west of the city besides there is yet no evidence that the robberies and harassments of innocent civilians have reduced. This of course rubbished the assumption that closing the bars at 11.00pm will solve the problem. No. Our much transformed police should have strategies to fight crime and not kill the night life which makes money for business people whose businesses depend on a robust night life. Many Bars are reported to have already laid-off 80 % of their staff in order to cope with the run-time reduction.
Our country is basically a youthful country and this is why the government is at its wits end trying to address the youth question, although the president promised to lay his life for the youth. Well the youth are dying now like flies and we do not know what the government is going to do about this. Remember even during the war, youth were behind the gun and also In front of it; subjects and objects at the same time. Our country unlike South Korea has an ageing population. so much so that at a point the south Korean Government made it mandatory for work places to allow their workers to go home early enough to make babies to boost up their tiny youth population. Interesting eh? Hear in Sierra Leone a 22 year old girl will have 5 children with different men and say God go provide! The kids will virtually be taking care of themselves. The girls will get enmeshed in early sex to make ends meet and follow same pattern of mother. What a life; no education; no enlightenment; no decency, and not meaningful future. So what next… alcohol, drugs and crime for them.
An important angle of this whole police and security issue is the role of the Police Partnership Boards that were set up all over the country by the last administration. Where were they when the police slammed this 11.00 Pm bar curfew? Yes, did they meet and consult the community stakeholders before arriving at that decision? One thing we need to note is that any decision which is not with the people cannot be rightly for the people. Remember this is the 21st century where democracy, human rights and good governance run in tandem.
Although public perception puts the police at the top when it comes to corruption, there is the other side of the story. The current propensity for the public to get involved in corrupt act in itself is a recipe for police graft. The ACC will tell you that both the person that gives bribe and the one that accepts the bribe are both culpable. The truth is most people are averse to doing so as they have to bribe because they do not want to do the right thing. So bashing the police may not solve our problem. As Hillary Clinton once said, a business is as good as the environment in which it operates.
When you look at the budget for the police for 2016, you find out that out of the total allocation of Le72,544.3 Billion, Rice alone takes 28,954.5 Billion Leones. When you consider that the rice is imported with dollars, then you know how serious the situation is. When it comes to security hardware and other logistics, Le24,953.7 Billion is allocated. Lastly admin and operational cost is Le18.636.1 Billion.
Looking at the amount for logistics, are we saying it is not enough to equip our police to protect the people in the east part of the City? If this is so, why is priority not given to security? Do we have to curtail the freedom of individuals in the East of Freetown with the excuse that Bars breed thieves and murderers? If we are talking of unemployment for youth, then this police action is definitely counterproductive. The situation in the Freetown East is like being beaten and being stopped from crying. Remember that Freetown East is still Freetown Urban with very huge votes!
By Beny SAM