The US$14.2M out of the US$16.3M allotted to the Liberia National Police (LNP) in the 2017/18 fiscal budget for compensation to include salaries for civilian and paramilitary personnel overshadowed the release of a report on the Security Actions for Everyone (SAFE) Project yesterday.
An honorarium and special and general allowances were also captured in the US$14.2 million, with US$3.1 million accounting for "non-financial assets."
The US$3.1 million, the police said, was intended for support and operations during the 2017 presidential and legislative elections.
The report, released in Monrovia, covered police facilities and operations in four of the 15 counties, including Bong, Lofa, Montserrado, and Nimba, as well as police-community engagement.
It was jointly conducted by International Alert, Liberia National Law Enforcement Agency (LNLEA), and the Center for Justice and Peace Studies (CIPS) with funding from the European Union (EU).
It comes in the midst of the reported deplorable condition of prison facilities and other logistical situations experienced by the police.
Yesterday's forum was attended by representatives of the EU, United Nations Police in Liberia (UNPOL), and authorities of the LNP, among others.
Meanwhile, participants agreed for the establishment of a Policing Trust Fund to provide support for needed police operations that are not reflected in the national budget.
In separate remarks, European Union representative Agniesille Napierala and UNPOL's Tabitha Mbugua said they believe that the allotment was unfair and unbalanced to make the country a safer place.
"The Government of Liberia needs to improve on the budget to settle the imbalance and unfair distribution in it," Mbugua, who proxy for the UNPOL commander, noted.
"Such an imbalance in the budget would make it very difficult to have a strong partnership with the community in terms of support," she said.
Napierala also said the budget, that is hugely dominated by salaries, does not ensure accountability and transparency in the operation of the police.
"How will the police manage to support the Community Watch Forum that is providing security assistance in the country to ensure a safer Liberia with the allotment of US$14.2 million as salary payment to staff of the LNP?" Napierala wondered. "How will they improve on the deplorable condition of prison facilities throughout the country?"
Police Deputy Inspector General for Manpower and Training, William Mulbah admitted the huge financial difficulty posed by the budgetary allotment.
"With the over 5,000 police officers, to set aside US$14.2 million for salaries is unfair and demeaning, and we had to work on it," Mulbah assured.
Despite the huge salaries, Mulbah said, they have made significant efforts in improving the relationship between the police and the community to make the country peaceful and safe.
"This is evidenced by our handling of the ongoing elections process and our engagement with the community in combating crimes and improving on civilian complaints against police officers," he indicated.
The report said some police stations in the four counties do not have the necessary logistics for effective operations.
"Some do not even have typewriters or computers and printers, and they have to resort to using commercial typewriters for their office operations. Many officers do not have uniforms and accessories and so, they have resolved to wear t-shirts as uniforms," the report indicated.
Cecil B. Griffiths, the president of LNLEA who read the report, said: "Moreover, many police stations in the rural areas, such as Zorzor and Flumpa police stations in Lofa County are in very deplorable conditions and need urgent renovation while the Ganta Police Station in Nimba County is in need of expansion."
The report also frowned on civilians recruited to assist police to man checkpoints in the country.
"Community members complained that some of the police aides are the ones creating problems for them and are even operating without the supervision of the commander of police," the report noted.
The report also recommended that the police budget should be re-framed to capture the need for police stations in the counties.
"Community members recommended that each police station should at least have one vehicle or motorbike, a computer, printer, solar panel or generator with a regular supply of gasoline, stationery and supplies, one smartphone for internet connectivity and food for the upkeep of detainees and suspects," the report said.
"To provide information about police work, community members are recommending that every police station should provide monthly or quarterly statistics on crimes, arrests, prosecutions and information about complaint mechanisms," it indicated.
On police achievement, the report said: "The police authorities made strong effort to promote accountability by issuing a number of tags to officers for identification purposes. This is a highly commendable initiative and we hope that the LNP authority will follow-up to ensure that all officers will have their names on their tags. Regular meeting between the police and community members is ongoing in addition to the SAFE project community dialogue; they are also having a regular policing forum in the various communities."