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Robbers in Police Uniforms

Robbers in Police Uniforms

Brima Acha Kamara will forever go down in the annals of Sierra Leonean policing as the boss who was honest to say that the men and women in the Traffic Division of the police are corrupt.

At the time the Inspector General of Police made this statement, the morale of the ‘force for good’ had plummeted alarmingly  to the extent that police and armed robbers were being pronounced rapidly in the same sentence in the mouth of  the average citizen.

The general consensus was, and is still that the police are part of the robber clique that is now the bane of the citizens both in Freetown and in the provincial cities.

While Mr. Acha Kamara was honest enough to highlight  the corruption in one Division of the police,  he has been quiet about the problems also existing in other Divisions of the same force. The bottom line is that there is a serious problem in the Sierra Leone Police, and this is a problem that needs the involvement of the whole country, including the law makers in the House of Parliament, before it gets out of hand.

The fact of the matter is that the police in Africa, is usually one of the bastions of corruption in any country in the continent. In the case of Sierra Leone, this corruption in the force has now become an accepted reality, such that it is now seen as part of the work of the police to be corrupt.

Denying the rights of people, where there is no money passing hands and even taking part in armed robbery has all been identified with the police force in Sierra Leone.

From taking bribes from ‘poda-poda’ drivers to breaking down shop doors with mattocks at night, all have been the end game of the police in Sierra Leone.

Recently, a police man was killed in a shoot out which is said to have occurred between two separate police patrol teams. The two groups are said to have been patrolling the streets of Freetown at night when the clash occurred. However, rather then the two being involved in curtailing armed robbers, they are actually said to have clashed over stolen property!

The facts are slowly emerging that the constable who lost his life was shot by his comrades perpetuating a crime rather than stopping one.

What should one do when the security supposed to be the protector of life and property becomes the threat to ones life and property? This is what has happened in Sierra Leone and the police are the first accused.

The police force in Sierra Leone has become a threat to the society and the reasons are not hard to find. In the first place, a biased system of recruitment ensures people with dubious character are being railroaded into the force after they have proved to be misfits both in the educational institutions and generally in their family or communities. Thus the police, especially the OSD have been the dumping ground for people with attitude problems manifesting a violence prone character.

At the other end of the spectrum is the strangling hold those in power continue to have over the recruitment into the police force. The Sierra Leone Police, since the days of Siaka Stevens, has been the main source in maintaining  the seeming  semblance of good governance through a democracy perpetuated by  force.

Knowing this power, politicians have made sure that they have a hold on who is made a police. Thus the ethnic game plan comes into existence, and only those seen to be in close affinity with the government through tribal or political links are inculcated into the force. This breeds a bad force that is established along a wrong premise. In such a situation, hell is let loose as street hardened criminals make their way into the police, are given authority by government, and are provided with arms and ammunition, a case of the system handing out guns to armed robbers.

The police with time have grown into a dangerous animal which has now decided to devour the people who had fed and nurtured it. It is the case of the dinosaur returning to terrorise the people.

The police have now donned the clothing of armed robbers or armed robbers are now dressed up as police officers. There is not much difference; it is essentially the same plight to the hapless victims whose lives and properties are constantly under threat from robbers.

Police receive their salaries, including their boots, their uniforms, their guns, their barracks, all their paraphernalia and even the batons they use on the people, from the people! Why then should the police not work in ensuring that the people are protected?

It is the people, whose honest sweat pays for the bills that maintain the police. It is the public who is the master, the one paying the piper, but at the bottom of this pyramid, stands the police, threatening the people.

At the end of the tunnel is the expected light to bring a bright police force to the police.

But is the police ready to come out of the dark, and is the government, at least those immediately profiting from the present corruption, allowing the status quo to change?

A society that cannot depend on its own police force is doomed. It is a nightmare for the nation and for those unfortunate enough, so to speak, to live in such a country.

Making proclamations like the Military Aiding Civilian Policing (MAC-P) by President Ernest Koroma following the widespread rate of armed robbery is not the solution.

The solution does not lie in just replacing the head. This is a problem that originated from the training school and the selection process of the recruitment for police. This is where the criminals infiltrate and is knowingly allowed into the force through the avid consent and knowledge of highly placed senior officials.

The criminals are indeed now in police uniforms!  

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