23 June 2014

Liberia: 'Confused' Police?

A team of officers from the Police Support Unit (PSU) of the Liberia National Police over the weekend embarked on the impounding of motorbikes in Central Monrovia, arresting as many motorbikes as possible.

But the arrest of a motorbike which the police claimed did not have proper document sparked concerns and acrimony, with the owner of the arrested bike taking exception to the police's claims.

According to the arresting officers, the serial number of Ishmael Kamara's bike was different from the engine number, which made it illegal for him to ply the streets of Monrovia with it. The engine number which read (0F5BC1728762) is not the same as the serial number (MD525GF5TC1B93808) issued by the Liberia National Police Headquarters June 18.

"They (PSU officers) said my Bike part is fake because the engine number is different from the number on the Access Pass", Mr. Ishmael Kamara, Accountant of Good Friends Mineral Business Center explained to The New Republic at the scene.

He said the engine number issued was the only argument the PSU officers stood on, after he showed them all the Bike's papers including the Motor Vehicle Insurance Certificate obtained by his Company from the Accident & Casualty Insurance Company, Inc. (ACICO). He was speechless when the Police officers seized the key of the bike, and was stunned with hopelessness.

Following the arrest of the bike, the on Monday, June 23, authorities of the Liberia National Police instructed another Police officer to immediately trace Ishmael's Bike among a group of impounded Motorbikes at the Police headquarters to release it.

Ishmael told the New Republic at the LNP Headquarters Monday that another Police officer at the LNP HQ confidentially confessed that the PSU officers' error on his bike. "The officers told me, the PSU officers were wrong for arresting the bike because the engine number can be changed anytime," he said.

Liberia's motor law prohibits arrest or impoundment on engine number, Mr. Kamara told the New Republic, quoting officers who helped him find his Company's Motorcycle.

"They told me the Police can only arrest on serial number," he quoted.

At the Liberia National Police Headquarters yesterday, a Police officer told the New Republic in confidence that his colleagues who arrested Mr. Ishmael Kamara's Motorbike on engine number, instead of on discrepancy of serial number, were ignorant of the law. "Ignorance of the law by some officers has been the major cause of embarrassment the Police Force faces in the public, and the problem comes most of the time from new intakes who just left High School," the officer noted.

LNP spokesperson Mr. Sam Collins told the New Republic at his office yesterday that the PSU has been authorized to impound Motorbikes found in places they had been barred. "Remember, PSU officers are also members of the Liberia National Police Force responsible to keep Motorbikes from restricted areas in the City," he reminded the paper's reporter.

Mr. Collins, however, didn't respond to the paper's question on whether the PSU officers' action on Mr. Ishmael Kamara's Motorbike was on their ignorance of the country's motor law.

Since November 6, 2013, all officers of the Liberia National Police Force have been preventing Motorbikes from moving on major roads or streets in the city, or impounding any that is found there.

The Police officers' authority came from the Government of Liberia, through authorities of the LNP, to prevent incessant commercial bike operators' disregard to traffic rules (especially excessive speed on the main road) that had resulted to deaths of hundreds of people travelling on Motorbikes around major streets of the city.

The November 6 decree restricts all commercial motorbikes to back-routes in communities, which connect to a major street or road.

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