Near Verbatim Transcript of press conference of 16 January 2013
Chris Massaquoi, Inspector General, Liberia National Police and John Nielsen, UNPOL Commissioner meet the press.
Chris Massaquoi, Inspector General, Liberia National Police
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Liberian press, let me once again welcome you to the headquarters of the Liberia National Police and to the first gathering, which has two objectives. Firstly, we want to make this a regular interactive exercise geared towards building a cohesive and mutually beneficial relationship between the voice of the people and, the press and their apex civilian law enforcement agency, the police. Also, we want to encourage a cooperative and collaborative working relationship between the media and the LNP in fighting crime in the society.
We would like to reflect a little on the year 2012 and talk about some of the good things that happened and to also share with you and the general public our hopes for the new year. We hope you will join us in talking about the good happenings of 2012 during the questions and period rather than dwelling on the negatives, because we believe that our people are tired of hearing bad news. We think they deserve to hear us talk about some good happenings.
Now to issues: you will agree when I say that the year 2012 was not all bad in terms of the Liberian National Police providing security for everyone. You will also agree I hope that we scored some significant success in the fight against crime in general. But armed robbery in particular thereby enabling our people to celebrate the Christmas and New Year holidays in peace and security. Let us however, be quick to admit that the media share in these successes by your continuous report of crime in various parts of the country, especially in Monrovia and its environs. We want to thank you and look forward to similar support and cooperation in 2013.
Some achievements of 2012:Reduced Crime (crime stats)
We are pleased to report that despite a slight increase (464 in 2012) we actually had a marginal reduction in the overall crime rate from 14,758 in 2011 to 14,388 in 2012; the represents roughly 12% in the reduction of all crimes committed in Liberia in 2012. A breakdown of the statistics outlining crime committed nationwide will be provided to you at the close of this press conference. We want to give particular thanks and appreciation to Commissioner John Nielson and the UNPOL family of UNMIL for all of the assistance in the professional compilation of this report.
A very peaceful and serene festive season
In recognition of our statutory responsibility to provide full security protection to our people and being aware it is at the Christmas and New Year seasons that criminals increase their criminal activities to divest innocent individuals, businesses and families of their hard-earned possessions, the Liberia National Police undertook a number of important security operations in late October through December to ensure that our people and our friendly guests living in our country had a very peaceful and serene festive Christmas and New Year celebrations. We take pride in reporting that these security measures were effective in achieving our goals.
PSD (Professional Standards Division) New Building
This Division is responsible for accountability of police misconduct. But there are some who don’t feel comfortable entering the main building of the Liberia National Police to report may be police misconduct and therefore shy away from registering their complaints. In order to deal with this problem, UNMIL, upon our request, constructed a new building outside the main headquarter which is much less intimidating to such people where individuals can now go and register their complaints against police officers who have offended them. Thanks again to UNMIL for this invaluable assistance. But what is more important about his unit is the vigorous pursuit of its mandate in ensuring that police officers operate within the ambit of the law in the execution of their duties. To this end the, the PSD received and investigated numerous complaints both from the public, as well as from within the LNP itself and made a number of recommendations for disciplinary action against those found guilty, ranging from two weeks suspension to outright dismissal and prosecution in some cases, depending on the gravity of the offense. All of those recommendations were approved and executed to the extent that the head of this unit has come under physical attacks on a number of occasions.
PSU (Police Support Unit) Barracks
The Government of Liberia through the LNP became the beneficiary of Japanese Government’s grant for the renovation of the police barracks located on Horton Avenue in Bassa community, for use by the PSU. That building is soon to be occupied by officers of the PSU and their families. The Liberia National Police is deeply grateful to the Government and people of Japan for this kind of assistance.
Establishment of New Depots/Stations Nationwide
We are pleased to report that in 2013, the Liberia National Police established a number of new police depots and stations in some strategic areas around the country with the view of reassuring citizens and residents in those areas of police protection.
Successful Deployment of LNP officers in Borders with Ivory Coast
As a result of security concerns along the Ivorian/Liberian border, the Liberia National Police (ERU) successfully deployed at these borders, along with the AFL and Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) in 2013, thereby contributing to security stability, along the border.
While we have indicated that we will not dwell on negative issues, it is however important to abreast the public on a number of important matters which we believe is necessary to clear any doubts as to the involvement of the LNP.
12th Street Homicide at UNMIL staff accommodation
Investigation into the homicide at the Sinkor 12th Street residence of an UNMIL staff is ongoing. As soon as our investigation is complete, we will inform the public of the outcome. Meanwhile, we would like to appeal to the media to please exercise patience while we carry out these investigations.
LNP Preparedness for the Transition of UNMIL
The Liberia National Police would like to assure the public that it is prepared to assume its full, statutory duty following the transition of UNMIL from Liberia. We are doing everything with Government’s support, buttressed by UNIL to augment the current strength of the LNP from its present level to be able to occupy those areas UNMIL will be vacating. This is already underway.
Lack of logistics
For some of you this may sound like a broken record considering the constant referral to this problem by the Liberia National Police; but it is important to continue to hammer home this problem in view of the fact that the Liberia National Police, by the very nature of our work require continuous adequate and appropriate logistics to effectively carryout our job. There are cries all over the country by our people for the presence of police in their areas, but for the police to be where they should be when they should be requires logistics and more logistics. We are not crying ‘wolf’ as some may think. The police have genuine need of logistics, including communication, vehicles, uniforms, as well as infrastructure to be able to do the people’s business of providing security.
101 Comments on corruption in LNP
Much has been said and written in the press about comments made by the Deputy Director of Police for Administration, Honourable Rose Stryker on corruption which comments were construed by some members of the public to be her support for corruption in the Liberia National Police. Let us make it very clear that the Deputy Director Stryker in her statement was in not in any way, form or shape supporting corruption and will not support corruption in the Liberia National Police. There is every reason to believe that she was only pointing out some of the challenges the rank and file officers of the Liberia National Police are faced with and the effect these may sometimes have on the individual. She was only referring to the general perception in some quarters of the public that police officers are corrupt. The Deputy Directing was in no way specifically alluding to corruption in the LNP. The view of corruption differs from person to person, but a layman’s definition of corruption is one giving bribe for service he or she is not entitled to and another giving that service he has no authority to give. This in short is bribery that involves two persons, the giver and the receiver.
We want to sound a serious warning to the general public, especially, commercial motorists to please report any action of corruption. We are pleading to the driving public not to give bribe to Traffic officers because you may be equally charged for bribery. The Giver is as guilty as the Receiver in accordance with the Penal Code of Liberia.
Imposition of curfew on motorcyclists
As a result of the continuous outcry by the public for more police protection against criminal elements who continue to threaten the safety and security of innocent people, the Liberia National Police put in place a robust security operation code named, ‘Save Haven’ which among other measures, imposed an indefinite 6 am to 10 pm curfew on all motor cycles plying the street of Monrovia and its environs. You the media are aware of the positive effect of that operation. Reduced crime rate, especially armed robbery, which enabled the public to celebrate a near crime-free holiday season. When will the curfew be lifted? We will lift the curfew when the LNP is satisfied that the all day – all night free movement of motorcyclists no longer threatens public safety.
Two (2) senior LNP officers involved in LBDI Highway Bank Armed Robbery as evidence of this administration’s determination to fight crime in all its facets, the Liberia National Police is pleased to inform you that in our persistence to solve difficult crimes, two intelligence officers in persons of Amos Soumie, Deputy Chief for Organized crime, and Sylvanus Collins, Chief Operations assigned with the Dynamite Unit.
Support to MCC in clearing the streets of illegal street sellers
You all are aware that the President gave January 5, 2013 as deadline for all illegal street sellers to leave the streets and go into the market areas. However, following an appeal from the marketers, this deadline was extended to January 15, 2013. Accordingly, the Liberia National Police will give its full support to the Monrovia City Corporation in clearing the streets of all street sellers, especially in the wake of the pending international meeting to be held in Liberia by President Sirleaf. Those concerned are therefore requested to cooperate with the City Corporation in this exercise.
LNP readiness to secure the borders
With the proper mechanism in place, the Liberia National Police can assure the public that it, along with other national security agencies, including the army, will be ready to secure our borders
John Nielsen (UNPOL Commissioner)
It is a pleasure to join our counterparts this afternoon to reflect on the progress made by the Liberia National Police in 2012 and the prospects for the development ahead.
Since 2003 when the UN Security Council mandated UNMIL to support the development of the LNP, UNPOL was deployed to carry on the role of mentoring, advising and supporting the LNP. Each year we have seen LNP stepping up to ensure the citizens live a good quality of life, free of fear and crime raiding neighborhoods of criminals and criminal activities.
In 2012, UNMIL understood several operations. In June when there was threats at the border with Cote d’Ivoire, LNP as mandated by the laws of Liberia, led Operations Restore Hope with support of the other law enforcement agencies and the army of Liberia. This operation led to intelligence gathering, arrests and prosecution of known mercenaries involve in cross border raids.
Such an operation complement with the motorbike curfew saw crimes significantly reduced during the holiday period. Armed robbery has been reduced and LNP now maintains a no nonsense approach toward criminality.
Before turning this back to the IGP, I would simply ask that people look at the last two years, but the last year and the things that have occurred in Liberia, starting with voter registration two years ago, through the voter registration period, through the election period, the general and Presidential run-off election, all throughout that year, while eat the same time with the troubles in Cote d’ Ivoire caused the influx of 250,000 refugees all of these challenges for the nation; the security handover in almost complete part by the LNP; you cannot look at these incidences and situations without acknowledging the success of your police service.
United Nations in our position of supporting and mentoring, have been with our counterparts, but it was your police service that led the way and allowed your country to have your Presidential election and to establish Liberia as a heaven for the people who fled Cote d’ Ivoire.
From the position of UNPOL Commissioner I can only congratulate the IGP and his leadership and the LNP on their professionalism.
Question and Answer
Q: James Aquoi (Liberia Broadcasting System)
You said that you started moving into areas where the United Nations has started moving. Could you tell us those areas that you are moving and how is that meeting with your own budget?
Q: Estelle Liberty (Power TV)
I would like to know how do you monitor crime in the rural counties when there are complaints that there are not enough police officer. And I would like for you to give me the break down from rural counties; how many officers you have deployed in each of those counties?
A: Chris Massaquoi (Inspector General of Liberia National Police
Honestly, we will not be in the position now to give you our statistics and number of officers in the counties. But in the face of the United Nations draw down, we have done a complete matrix of those areas that LNP need to fill in the gap. As UNMIL leaves those particular areas, we are depending on the strength that we need in those particular areas; we go by those particular numbers. For example someone ask we have decided to deploy; for example, Foya, Sinje, Robertsport and LAC (Liberia Agriculture Company). There are constraints I must admit, but to do deployment it goes with lot things. For example they have to be uniformed, armed, and mobile and with some other equipment that will require the effectiveness of those people. But with the help of the government and our international partners, we continue to receive the necessary support with our deployment.
Q: O’Neil Bestman (Truth FM)
You spoke on huge commitment on the part of the police, especially the professional standard division, making all effort to professionalize the police. We are receiving reports that 116 police officers are in the process of being suspended. Could you give a detail explanation, the reason and then the duration of that suspension?
Q: Samuel Diggs (Radio Monrovia)
My concern has to do with the issue of the Liberia National Police taking over those places that UNMIL is now leaving. In one of your press conferences at the Police Academy, you told us that the police need US$20,000,000 when it comes to taking over from UNMIL in those places. Today you are telling us that you are now ready to deploy to those places. Could you explain to us if you have gotten enough money to protect the Liberian people?
A: Chris Massaquoi (Inspector General of Liberia National Police
As I said early, the Government of Liberia is doing everything possible to be able to meet up with this particular challenge of filling in the gap. It is gradual withdrawal. It is not going on abruptly. I can say within our 2012/2013 budget, we have already allotted the necessary provision of what is require to fill-in those particular areas at a gradual process. For example like beginning the first year, second year, third year, the fourth year, we are not going to do it all in one.
Q: Hilary Vasco Weagbe (In Profile Daily)
You said that the police established a number of depots across the country within the year under review. How many depots and where?
Q: Winston Parley (New Dawn Newspaper)
You listed a lot of things you said police officers need to carry out their functions in places that UNMIL was occupying. Could you please tell us if you were able to arm the police officers that have taken over those places where UNMIL withdrew from?
A: Chris Massaquoi (Inspector General of Liberia National Police
I might not be able to give you the actual picture of where those depots are, but as far as my recollection, we have about 200 new depots established and a lot of them were provided by the United Nations Quick Impact Project.
Yes we do have armed officers in those particular areas. That is the only way we will be able to protect those particular areas. We are not going to put our officers in harm’s way; we will not be able to put the citizen’s in harm’s way. So we are doing everything possible to have armed officers be into those areas that will require arms.
In that light, we have taken a lot of our officers from those special assignments that are armed to be brought back to this headquarter for redeployment.
Q: Joseph Charlie (New Liberia Newspaper)
The rehabilitation work that you were assisted by the Japanese Government in which you said the PSU are going to occupy, could you just tell the public how much it cost in terms of cents and dollars?
Q: Ziamah Zeigler (Kings FM)
I have two concerns; your Professional Standard Division (PSD); can you tell the Liberian people how many police officers we can expect to a civilian? I just visited the Kplo community in Rivercess County where you have scout boy acting like police. Are you aware?
Q: New Liberia Newspaper
Just said in the press conference that the enterprise of running the police is very expensive and said they need logistics. Is the Government not adequately providing the kind of assistance and material you need for the up keep of the police?
A: Chris Massaquoi (Inspector General of Liberia National Police
One thing you got to understand is that the police are not the only institution in Liberia. Running a police is a very expensive enterprise. The police budget that is required could almost absorb the entire country’s budget. It has to be budgetary allocation for the effectiveness of the police is be done a gradual pace. The government is doing its best. From the last budgetary allocation, thing were made available to improve the capacity of the police. Funding for more uniforms was provided, situation of acquiring land was provided, and mobility was provided, and a lot of good things were done. All cannot be done at one time as the result of other priority of the government. But you can rest assure that when it come to the protection of life and property regardless of how you see us, we will also be there to protect the citizens of Liberia.
With respect to the PSD, in recent time we have taken disciplinary action on about a 150 officers so far. The good news is that the word is out there that we are doing something about police misconduct and people are now coming to this headquarter and file in police complain. So we are e the general public including you, to provide information on any police conduct.
On the issue of scout boy acting as police officer, I think that is impersonation. So if you have that information, after this meeting I will get back to you to give us the evidence so we can take some action on that.
We want to warn the general public on mob violence. We want the media to be able to help us, to educate the general public, let the people know that we will not condone mob violence. For example, if an individual or motorist is involve in an accident involving a motorcycle, you will see 200 to 300 motorcyclist chasing you to carry out their mob action and taking the law into their own hands, you as the media should help us crop that as well. We will be very robust in our action against mob violence and rioting.
We want to general public to be able to respect emergency vehicles. When you hear siren of vehicles, police vehicles plying the streets, give them way to pass. And then the traffic in the morning, a lot of people are complaining, It is a culture thing in this society, it is not just the issue of police not knowing what to do. The people do not want to respect the police and law and order. Everyone want to do the police work. Last I arrest a lady driving with a license plate; and she has just arrived in Liberia from the United States. And I ask her; things that you would not do in America, you just come to Liberia and do it. And I took the document and the vehicle and brought them to this headquarter. To my outmost surprise, someone very big in the society call me to beg for this woman. So it is culture thing. Everybody wan to manipulated the system. Those that are in the habit of giving bride to the police officers, we organized a special squad to have individual arrested.
Now the special core, in the next few weeks or so, we will be graduating 150 college graduates. The reason why we have done this is to be able to sustain the capacity of the institution. We are not looking at the numbers but the quality of officers to be able to perform.
Today we are opportune to be given a grant by the United States Government, 20 of our officers will be travelling to the United States today for training. We want to extend our heartfelt appreciation to the United States Government for that opportunity.
With respect to the renovation of the police barracks on Camp Johnson road, that was in the tune of US$350,000.00 and the building is now ready for occupancy. Over the week-end the officers will be moving.
John Nielsen (UNPOL Commissioner)
The planning and actual operation of transition is ongoing and all is going well. Starting with Robertsport and Foya and as we move into the year for the next few months, we will have several others. And by virtue of our manual planning all is ready and set to go. Part of the planning that LNP and Government have been doing all along was for the growth of LNP from its current strength from 4,500 to end up in the area of 8,000. All of that training is planned and recruitment is ongoing.
Someone ask about the PSD, from the prospective of the UN and internationals the things that you have seen, the IGP has been very aggressive in dealing with officers who have been absent without leave; many of those officers have been suspended for different number of times. Rebuilding and reinstalling that kind of discipline, we see is very progressive for you.