Liberia: Police Defend Brutality

Authorities at the Liberian National Police are defending brutalities sometimes meted against civilians here during protests, saying it is as a result of too many people giving them instructions and that is confusing them."Because this is the situation, when, this issue here people don't understand. That's the reason why sometimes there's a result of police brutality because you got so many people giving instruction, too many people giving instruction, and too many people, you know, it confuses the troop," Deputy Police Inspector General for Operations Col. Marvin Sackor said Monday, 21 October.

His comment comes at a time the Liberia National Police (LNP) is facing condemnation over the handling of protesting public high school students who blocked the main boulevard last week, demanding to speak with President George Manneh Weah concerning their teachers' salaries.The students' protest was triggered after public school teachers abandoned classes to strike for their unpaid salaries.The situation outside the President's office was terrifying as several students were rushed to hospital during the protest as a result of dozens of tear gas canisters fired by riot police to disperse protesting public schools students.

But Col. Sackors aid he had earlier instructed his officers to be careful with the students "until when the president's convoy came" and the students blocked its passage."The only time things went out of hand [was] when the convoy went through and they decided to throw stones. And when you are a student and you are throwing stones, you are not peaceful," Col. Sackor explains.

According to him, when police tried to take the protesters off the street, they went to privately - run Seventh Day Advantist (SDA) School and J.J. Roberts to attack the students there.He argues that the police were not throwing stones, saying some of the injuries that were seen on students resulted from stones that they were throwing.

Expressing confidence in his deputies' full execution of orders, Col. Sackor told local broadcaster Prime FM that he appears on the scene when he deems it necessary, noting that he sits on his command post and instructs his men to act."So I sit and give instructions to my deputy and he gives it to his under men, they execute. That's how it should be done," he continues.

Concerning ex-rebel General Power alias Augustine Nagbe's alleged involvement with police operations here, Col. Sackor says the ex-general is not an employee of the Liberia National Police, but a Liberian citizen."Why will we want to bring ex-generals to work with us? We have people. We have professionals. We have seasoned officers who can execute. We are civil law enforcement officers, the military is different from us. The military is mostly involved in external aggression," he says.

He also denies suggestions that General Power issued orders to police officers when they broke into talk show host Henry Costa's radio station Roots FM, collected equipment and shut down the station despite protest by Costa's loyalists."This is the situation here, Power is a Liberian. As far as I am concerned, Power is not an employee of the Liberia National Police," Col. Sackor says.

Col. Sackor asserts that the president has a legacy which the police must protect."Look our job is to advice. Let me say something to you Kelvin, the president has a legacy right? Our job is to make sure we protect that. So if something is wrong or right, we speak truth to power. We are not politicians. I am not a politician," he states.

The deputy police chief tells that talk show that the police here are not being controlled by anybody, in reaction to public suspicion that the police appear to be regime security."You see the problem is people cannot go on the street and disrespect the rule of law, disrespect the Constitution, then when the police act, then people want to politicize it. It's wrong," Sackor notes.

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