Building a stronger military/police relationship
In the first place, it should be emphasized that our security men and women have a stake in Sierra Leone’s development agenda. It is only when we have a stable country that we are sure of progressing politically, economically and socially. Therefore the relevance of national security, especially in a democracy need not be downplayed. In fact the success of democracies in Africa has been tied to the provision of effective security.Â (Photo: Pa John Baimba Sesay)
It should also be made clear that we can boast of getting a peaceful country pending there is a good relationship between and among our security apparatus; the police, army, prisons, fire force et al. Few weeks back, I wrote in several newspapers, including some online papers that there is every need for us as a people to continue to support our security officers.
I argued that it is only when we support and trust them that they (security men and women) will live up to our expectations. Let us be practical here; during Sierra Leone’s decade long civil war, we saw what our men in the security sector did when they turned the barrel of the gun against us. As a result we lost the confidence that we once had in them. Apparently it took time for them (especially the military) to rebrand their image. This was a serious challenge for not only the military and police, but also for us a people. But we went through all of that.
Most often than not, we have realized that our gallant military and Police officers have done their best to meet the challenges of our time. They have ensured that the needed security is provided us, locally and internationally; internationally by defending our territorial integrity and locally by tackling crime. This they have done as a result of the collaborative efforts they keep enjoying from us as citizens.Â However we need to wake up to some realities, especially when viewed from the perspective of the relationship between the police and the military on one hand and between the military and civilians on the other handÂ
Practically we all could agree that the security of the state is a collective responsibility on us all, because the first law of nature is; one must be in position to secure the self first. But there should be robust collaborative efforts between and among our security officers. However from investigations I conducted this has not been the case especially in recent times.
We have been following in recent time a seeming bitter relationship between the Police and the Military. There beenÂ problems also even betweenÂ the military and civilians; I do not as a matter of fact and for the sake of peaceful coexistence, expect Mr. Brima Acha Kamara as IGP or Nelson Williams as CDS to say, there is animosity between sojas and police. They obvious could not say there is, but I am maintaining that there is one. Now let us look at what is currently happening. (Photo: Acha Kamara)
There was a fracas recently in Waterloo where a military officer, Hassan Bendu Â was arrested as suspect, following the theft of a motor bike. The bike got missing as allegedly and one military officer was accused of haven stolen the bike and was subsequently beaten by angry youths as a suspect, not even knowing that the suspect in question is a military officer. He was taken to the Waterloo Police Station as a suspect where it was later discovered that he is a military officer. Sadly, though, word went roundÂ among his colleagues at Benguma BarracksÂ Â that he (suspect) had been treated badly at the police station, thus they (military) went berserk, they allegedly attacked the police station in seeming retaliation, and the end result was just too devastating to say the least.
As a sequel to that incident, my investigations revealed that, on the 23rd of September, 2009 a police officer was allegedly manhandled at Porte, east of Freetown by military officers led by a captain. How? – There is a vehicle that normally takes military officers to and from their homes on a daily routine for workÂ and as is often the case, police officers would join this military vehicle. However since there was this fracas at waterloo,Â the military, on the 23rdÂ could not allowÂ any police officer to join them, as a way of taking them along for work. And the one who attempted to use the vehicle at Porte was allegedly attacked. That particular matter is being investigated at present.
It did not stop at that; sometime around last week; an OSD officer was also allegedly assaulted in the east of Freetown by military men, with allegations that there was a Captain who first pounced on the OSD. Also the matter is currently being investigated by the Police and Military high commands and I learnt it has not been established who the Captain was.
But there is one aspect we must look at when discussing this issue; in the first place, civilians should be discouraged from taking the law into their hands; period!! There was and is still a need to beat up a suspect, rather than reporting to the police. It makes no sense to beat up an individual when a crime has been committed. And this is where the Local Policing Partnership Board should intervene in educating the community that beating up a suspect is unacceptable and is also a crime.Â The police are the ones to investigate such a crime and where there is enough evidence,, charge such matter to court and then the law should be applied; if someone is guilty, then there should be a punishment to be meted on him for the crime committed.Â If the military officer had not been beaten up, there was going to be no fracas in waterloo. This is one aspect.Â
However, the military also has their portion of blame.Â They should note that no one is above the law and that it is the constitutional responsibility of the police to ensure internal security of the state; full stop, nothing more, nothing less.Â Again, the military like another citizen should realize that when taken to the police, they should be seen going through the due process of the law. If a report is made against any military officer, his colleagues should allow the police on the other hand to perform their function without fear or favor. If statement is to be obtained from a suspect, whether military or otherwise, then so it; if he is to be charged to court, it should be allowed to happen, and no need for the police to be ‘bastardized’ just because someone somewhere thinks he has access to the barrel of the gun.
Â And in fact, I now see the reason why guns should not be also allowed to be in the hands of the military when they have less use of it at the moment. We are no longer in a war situation. A soldier can do whatever he feels like doing, especially when with a weapon. This is what I think.Â Let us begin to think of taking some weapons from some of our military officers. This could be one of several solutions to the mistrust that is about to erupt.
It is a sad reality but we have to say it; if a military officer is alleged to have committed a crime, it should be the responsibility of his colleagues to ensure, justice is dispensed, but for them to begin to ‘fight back’ is most unacceptable and calls for the attention of those concern. And this is where the Commander-In-Chief should intervene to ensure a smooth relationship between the two.
Also, the military should begin to see civilians as their people, rather than beating up poor civilians whenever there is a misunderstanding between the military and the civilian, there should always be a peaceful means of resolving matters of conflict. We are not in a military regime. I love my military men and women but I should also point to their weaknesses.Â In fact I admire so much at the strength and courage of our military men and women especially during the civil war, but they must be cautioned.
Also the police force on the other hand be seen performing their functions in a rather professional manner. They should realize thatÂ Â it is only when their collaborative with the military that they stand to make progress in performing their constitutional functions. A senior police officer recently admitted to me that they have ‘bad elements’ within the police force and this is also the case in the army. But these ‘bad elements’ should not succeed in creating a bad image for the military and the police.Â
The police force is doing well but not very well. They too need some reforms. From the one manning traffic, to those in general duties, they still need some internal trainings and the police leadership should also think of revisiting the trainings they have conduced for their officers but years back. Refresher training is needed.
Generally we stand to benefit nothing if there is a poor relation between the military and the police. And besides, both people, but especially the military should realize that they are being paid out of the taxpayers money and forÂ them to begin toÂ beat up poor civilians whenever there is a fracas is just too unacceptable and uncalled for.
But there is a way forward to this seeming problem. One can understanding the fact that most of our gallant men and women in the security setup need further trainings on how to ensure a good relationship and I think Nelson Williams can do something in this direction. This used to be the same problem faced by the Police Force but with constant trainings, things have hanged today. We are in a democracy where everybody is equal before the law, at least in theory. Can someone say ‘Yes it is true”?
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