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Sierra Leone Police must remain neutral

Sierra Leone Police must remain neutral

This is an issue that is becoming topical in all public gatherings as we approach the crucial 2012 elections. The self-styled ‘force for good’ has been receiving severe criticisms over the years from concerned members of the public over the way and manner they conduct themselves when it comes to politics.

The truth is most of the violence associated with elections has always been blamed on the police.

Their crowd control mechanism, for instance, is much of a disappointment. Their intervention and their frequent use of ‘maximum force’ in quelling simple street riots have been widely condemned.

As a matter of fact, their presence at certain occasions more often than not ends up creating more tension around the venue thereby initiating violence.

This is because where the police are expected to display professionalism to contain unrest in certain circumstances the police disappointingly use their biases to do otherwise, such that where they should help bring peace it becomes a violent situation instead.

Examples of the reckless handling of violent situations abound. The role of the police in the Tongofields riot during the local council by-election in 2010 when police arrested and charged to court only SLPP supporters is a classical case of police bias. The September 9, 2011 Bo riot and a host of other instances all point to the fact the police has never been neutral when handling matters that have to do with political violence.

The recent by-election in Ward 369 in Freetown speaks volumes of the political leaning of the Sierra People Police when it comes to providing security for voters during elections.

Arresting and brutalizing supporters of one political party, leaving out those of the ruling party is most unacceptable and does not present a good picture of our police. It is becoming clear that their coverage of certain political activities always aggravate tension.  This is because the police perceive members of the public as their enemies and with this preconceived notion, the innocent people are always their target.

It is quite understandable to hear them say they support the government of the day. This is true to some extent in view of their security role. The same applies to public servants including service personnel.

But on the issue of politics, especially during elections, police should stand above board. Their mandate exceeds just protecting life and property during the elections. They should also ensure that people exercise their political and civil rights without fear or favour.

What can be said of police officers who openly rejoice at the victory of a political party? It confirms the degree of police bias during elections. Most often their presence at such occasions is more intimidatory than providing protection.

We are not even sure if the 2012 election will be an exception. We have already started seen it. But this time the people will resist any attempt by the police to show their biases.

Let IG Munu and his men hear this!

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