The Liberia National Police (LNP) through its Inspector-General, Chris Massaquoi, has reacted to the recent report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on "corruption" involving LNP officers in the country.
HRW is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and survey on human rights. The group is also dedicated to protecting the rights of people around the world.
According to him, the report of the HRW does not consider "existing extenuating challenges as contributing factors" of some of the "shortcomings" of the LNP.
He said the report was made up of "unsubstantiated allegations and accusations against the LNP regarding corruption without balancing its information to reflect accuracy and the current reality."
He made these assertions on Thursday, September 5, 2013 at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) regular press briefing held at the Charles Gbenyon Press Hall in Monrovia.
"The objective of this response is neither to be defensive, to grant approbation to; nor deny HRW report in its current state; rather, the LNP seeks to show that the report is fundamentally imbalanced, flawed and in some aspects an attempt to cast aspersion upon the LNP.
While this allegation may have been widespread during past LNP administrations, the same cannot be persistent under the current reformed police organization since several corrective measures have been put into place to discourage such unethical behaviors," he stated.
He said the current administration of the LNP "frowns heavily on the collection of fees by police officers for whatever reason in the discharge of their duties" while rendering required police services.
In its report which, was formally released to the public on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at a news conference in Monrovia HRW said," police corruption severely impedes proper administration of justice and denies Liberians their basic rights to personal security and redress, including equal protection under the Liberian constitution and international law."
"Victims of police corruption reported that the police can extort money at every stage of an investigation, whether for a common crime or a government rights violation," said the HRW in its report released on police corruption and Abuse in Liberia.
The report, which was formally launched under the theme: "No Money, No Justice"-Police Corruption and Abuse in Liberia, documents the impact of police corruption on the administration of justice in the country.
The report, a copy of which is in possession of this paper, points out that payment to register cases in Liberia is widely recognized, including by the police, as a common, if unlawful, practice.
The report said many police depots require complainants to pay a registration fee for desk officers to register a complaint or file a case.
But the LNP boss admitted that, "we cannot totally rule out that there may be some level of excesses by a few deviant police officers, such behaviours may be found in any organization, the size of the LNP."
According to him, "Duty Manual and the Penal Code are in place to discourage or prevent unprofessional and unethical behaviour" of police officers.
He pointed out that gone are the days where police officers would carry out arbitrary arrest and detention, assaults and mistreatment and go with impunity, adding that, they are "no longer norms of today."
The LNP boss mentioned that the leadership of the LNP through its Professional Standard Division (PSD) has "consistently dealt with human rights violations in meting out appropriate disciplinary actions" including warnings, suspensions, and dismissals "against police officers who are found guilty."
Speaking further, Mr. Massaquoi expressed dismay over the decision taken by the HRW to interview street vendors, motorcyclists and taxi drivers whom HRW referred to as "low income workers."
According to him, those interviewed by HRW are people that come in constant contact with LNP officers on a regular basis while enforcing city ordinances and traffic law.
"It is worth noting that these groups of citizens are those with whom the police come in constant contact on a daily basis in the enforcement of city ordinances, as well as the vehicle and traffic law of the Republic of Liberia. It would then be obvious that if questioned as to their opinion about police performance, they would most likely present a negative picture of the police; for no one likes the police when the law is being enforced against them," he stated.
However, the Inspector General of the LNP assured that his administration remains determined to continue to "identify and remove from its midst all elements who fail to or refuse to adhere to professional and ethical standards" despite the "economic constraints caused by inflation and other factors."