28 November 2012

Liberia: Crime Fighters or Facilitators - Several Police Officers Still Under Probe for Criminal Facilitation

Segments of the public have insisted that elements of the Liberia National Police (LNP) are facilitating the commission of criminal activities in society, while the LNP is still investigating several officers for the very act.

Many of them alleged that police officers have connived with hard core criminals to commit armed robbery while several others including top officers were linked to drugs deals.

Insiders of the LNP also confirmed to this writer that "big police officers" were involved in the "protection of some drug dealers" because the act was in their interest. "Some of them really take in drugs and they are part of the drug syndicate," the insider, demanding anonymity, confided.

Though police authorities have persistently denied the public claim, several officers have in the past been disrobed for criminal and other unprofessional policing acts, while three members of the Crime Services Division are currently suspended for "facilitating crimes." The Crime Services Division of the LNP investigates crimes.

Police Chief Chris Massaquoi Thursday (Nov 8) frankly told journalists that "incidents of armed robbery have increased" in the country, especially in urban areas, and that "some" police officers were engaged in "facilitating criminal activities" in and around the capital.

Massaquoi took over the police months ago and warned armed robbers and criminals to come out and turn themselves over as he knew their hide outs. "We know where you are; we will come after you," he warned, giving an ultimatum and also threatened to punish any police officer who violate the ethics of professional policing.

He led a ghetto-raiding campaign in the capital and several other urban areas, arresting at least 500 suspected criminals, but public opinions has turned bitter against him and his men a recent wave of armed robberies that have sent terror in the spine of many.

The Inspector General has noted that criminals, especially armed robbers, are becoming sophisticated, carrying AK-47 riffles, while the police are facing logistic scarcity, but those accusing the police for failing to adequately do its job claim that element of the force were criminals.

"Some of the very police officers are criminals; how can these king of people help to fight crimes," said Joseph Knonungbo, a bike rider who is bitter with the police's 10pm curfew on motorcyclists. "Some of them can even tell the criminals where to go and how to do their thing; they are all in it together but they want to blame us," he said.

Massaquoi said "The LNP authorities have...suspended, for time indefinite, some members of the Crime Services Division for allegedly contributing to criminal behaviors in and around Monrovia." He noted that "these officers are being investigated and if found blameworthy will be prosecuted."

He continues: "We know we have offices in our midst that have serious misconduct problems, and we have been engaged with those problems. We have had complaints from the public and statistics will show that we have taken drastic action against our officers."

Police spokesman Lewis Norman confirmed to this writer yesterday (Nov 27) that the three officers (names withheld) suspended for allegedly facilitating crimes are still undergoing investigation. "The three officers are still undergoing investigation," he continued. "It is alleged they facilitated crimes...those who gave the information have to come and give more information."

Norman disclosed that some criminals were arrested and they were the ones who confessed that the three officers facilitated their alleged criminal deal.

Asked whether he was aware of and hearing the many complaints and allegation against the LNP, Norman responded in the affirmative. "It is their views and feeling; but we cannot do that; we are not involved in committing crimes against the public..."

Many people in the public continue to be apprehensive of the LNP's strength and commitment to fight crimes and are worrying what would security be when the UN peacekeeping troop leaves the country. "They should be fighting crimes, but instead they are facilitating criminals to cause havoc on us. Where are we going," an angry caller noted on a radio show.

Authorities at the Liberia National Police Training Academy told a police graduation ceremony that several of the recruits were dropped from the class because they were involved in criminal activities including illicit drug deals, and critics alleged that several of such cadets have successfully infiltrated the force.

"Those guys were just bad lucky, but several of them are in the force already and they get hard. Just look in some of their faces, you will know that they have taken in drugs," Catherine Blamo of Johnson Street claimed.

In spite of all the allegations and admissions, Massaquoi argued that on the contrary, the LNP has been very vigilant in the discharge of its duties, but noted that humanly it is not possible for the police to be everywhere at the same time when a crime is being perpetrated.

He called for more logistics and other necessities to enable the police effectively fight crimes, especially as armed robbers become increasingly sophisticated.

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