Liberia: 'Leave the Police and Go If Dissatisfied'

In the US State Department's annual human rights report about Liberia, police are at the center of corruption for extorting money from drivers; something that Police authorities have neither denied nor conceded .

Police Spokesman reacts to police complaints as commercial drivers confess deliberate traffic violations

Police spokesman Moses Carter has reacted sharply to complaints about the Liberia National Police (LNP)suggesting that officers are poorly treated by the government.

Views solicited during the last week in May suggest that police officers hardly receive supplies including uniforms, and if there would be any, it is given by preferential treatment to officers who may be in senior positions. Furthermore, some officers have confided in this paper that their meager salaries promised to be given have been cut and the residue hardly comes on time; something they claim makes them act as traffic officers without any authority to do so.

"If a police officer is not satisfied with the job, let him leave and go to find another thing to do. Some will come in an organization with a mindset to earn more money like US$1,000 or US$500.00, and more, but the government can give you what it can afford for your worth. Everyone has his worth. So, if you think you can earn more than what you are given, leave the Police and find a different thing to do," Carter said, adding, "This should not serve as a point to carry on any unprofessional act, and if we find out those police officers, we will take administrative action."

An officer serving in the Police Support Unit (PSU) says patrol officers who have earned a college degree make US$150 and a Liberian dollar component of $3,000, while an officer without a degree earns US$100 with a Liberian dollar component of L$3,000. Senior officers with college credentials according to the source receive US$300 with an additional Liberian dollar component of not less than $10,000.

"You know, the pay varies from stage to stage. I have a college degree from the University of Liberia and must receive US$300, but our bosses say the LNP no longer controls the payroll but the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. This money has been cut down to US$240.00, and if this can happen to me, think about those who are without a degree and below in rank," said the police source.

The source further explained: "Uniform business is a challenge that the government will select some few senior officers to supply them uniforms while the rest are left with the old uniforms they received while graduating from the Police Training Academy."

Additionally, the source said "Even in supplying the very officers, uniforms will come without boots and caps; so this force we are in is just a frustrating one. We as PSU and ERU officers do not have to go in the traffic to control it, but because the salaries the government cuts are not coming on time and our families have to eat, we sometimes push the Traffic Officers aside to perform their roles."

Further reacting to the claims in a wrathful tone, Mr. Carter continued: "Okay, you are a human being talking to me. If you have a job and you are not satisfied, what do you do? Leave and go, but you cannot exploit other people for that."

However critics note the much proclaimed Security Sector Reform (SSR) conducted under the auspices of the UN have proved to be a failure given the endless spate of public complaints of abuse of people's rights by the Police and other state security organs including the military. The Police, especially is often accused, by commercial drivers of harassment and extortion.

In the US State Department's annual human rights report about Liberia, police are at the center of corruption for extorting money from drivers; something that Police authorities have neither denied nor conceded .

Scores of commercial drivers spoken to in Monrovia last week admitted that to some extent, they are responsible for the habitual extortion of money from commercial drivers by the Police, aside from the demeaning treatment they receive at the hands of other state security officers.

Taking off from the intersection of Broad and Randall Streets with four passengers, the taxi driver who had parked in a driveway said, after being pardoned by the traffic Police said: "I was just making big mouth because of my connection with the higher-up, but frankly speaking I am wrong for parking there and the officer was right to even issue me a ticket."

"People do not respect the police because of how the state is treating them. If the government sees it as a major security sector to give members good salaries, they would not stand to argue with drivers for the violation but just issue them tickets to pay money to the government. But see how our police can even appear in the streets; so dirty in ragged uniform that one cannot tell whether or not it is blue or black," said a passenger on board the vehicle".

Another driver leaving from the ELWA Junction to central Monrovia began the confession in Congo Town: "We drivers violate daily. Even if you look at the body of my car, the view mirror is broken and some of my lights are not functioning. Some places we park to get passengers are not appropriate. So the police can be right to stop us, and we ourselves take money to bribe them."

From the 72nd Junction to SKD Boulevard Junction, a driver said: "Most of the cars we drive don't belong in the city, and we are violating every day, but the police are in uniform and their own is the one people see and so the blame is on them."

A senior police officer at the ELWA Junction who prefers not to be named said," We are blamed because of our position and the work we do, but these drivers are in violation every minute. See these cars, they are not registered as commercial vehicles but are commercialized. Some will open doors in the traffic, and most of the drivers you see do not have a driver's license."

According to him, a lot of vehicle owners register as private because they do not want to pay what is stipulated for a commercial vehicle to pay to the government, something that may constitute tax evasion. According to the officer, commercial vehicles pay US$190 to register, while private vehicles, based on the type of engines, pay US$100.00 or less.

"We take the blame unjustly but the drivers are the cause, and sometimes you will see passengers and other passer-by cussing us, but we continue to accept it because this is where we are placed to serve," said the officer.

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