Police in Sierra Leone are seemingly acting under pressure. Too many lethal force are being used and too many young lives are lost in the last two years through police gun shot. They need international support to help them do their job with professionalism and free from political interference.
Every citizen, everywhere in the world, will look up to the police for their protections. They’re brave men and women who risks their lives in protecting the public.
Ironically, police also have a duty to offer protection for criminals and those either caught on the act or suspected of involvement in crime.
This is the fundamental principles of the rule of law that underpinned the police operation in law enforcement.
Policing is not just about using live bullets in riotous situation or on protesters. The release of lethal weapons is the last resort, it should always be. There must be a clear and incontrovertible evidence that the threat posed to life was real, imminent and outweighs the restraints of using live bullets.
Furthermore, that all other means such as the use of riot control technics, shield for the police to protect them, water cannon and release of non lethal plastic bullets had failed to contain the situation.
These are some of the measures that the police can apply to control and disperse the crowd that became violent.
America is a country of gun, the police are well armed. Yet the world was struck when we saw heavily armed police officers knelt down on their knees ,pointing their guns downwards in front of the angry crowd protesting the death of a black man, apparently killed by a police officer.
This was a common sense approach policing– more aptly a police diplomacy was shown when the well armed officers empathize with the angry protesters.It played a significant role in de-escalating the violence.
Sierra Leone armed officers should take a leaf from what happened in the USA.I profoundly believe in good policing,their professionalism and do worry, enormously, about how feasible it’s for them to assert their independence and impartiality from political pressure and interference , in a country that is corrupt, deeply fractured along unending party political squabbles for power dominance between the two party system.
I also believe that the actions and public utterances from politicians and their sycophantic supporters calling for mob violence in the country has made policing work very difficult.
Three months after a government minister in Sierra Leone was caught on video threatening to shoot and kill, an assembled crowd of youths , anyone who dare join a demonstration against his government, security forces have yesterday shot and killed five youths, including school children in the same region that the minister issued his death threat, as they protested against the government removal of electricity plant from Makeni city.
The repeated and increasing use of lethal force by the police ,under the two years rule of president Bio’s government, corresponding to the high level of fatalities of unarmed protesters is alarming, as it has never happened in peace time under any government. Over 80 unarmed civilians have been killed by live bullets in two years.
What is particularly concerning about these shoot and kill spree is that no one is held to account .
An alleged reported prison outbreak in the pademba road central prison led to over thirty fatalities when armed officers opened fire. Many of those killed were petty thieves and other who should never have been in jail .
The deputy minister of interior whose armed security officer had earlier gunned down an unarmed youth at his front gate was reported to have been on the scene, alongside the ruling paopa SLPP womens leader. No independent inquiry has been done, as promised by the president. This was a major incident.
This is a matter of national and international humanitarian concerns and there are ramifications. Police response to riots or demonstration must be cautious, proportionate to the level of the perceived threat and not beyond it
All these murders in Sierra Leone did not warrant the use of live ammunition by the armed officers.
The police should be train and sufficiently equipped and resource on how to deal with crowd and manage riotous situation that could preempt or minimize the use of lethal force that results in needless loss of lives.
Using mobile water cannon and spraying paint on demonstrators who became violent, can be use to disperse them . Rubber bullets can also be use to disperse them as a warning. In all circumstances, the shoot to kill should and must be the last resort when there are no other available options.
But too often armed officers shoot to kill protesters.
Shooting civilians with live bullets, intended to kill, for throwing stones and breaking up properties, is not a proportionate reaction to crowd control and cannot be reasonably characterized as such.
A review of policing tactics, chain of command and operational manuals is needed to prevent futher fatalities in Sierra Leone. The lives of the youths, who are already estranged from society matters. Balance must be maintain between the need for public security and the human rights of the perceived offenders– as this is a key aspect in a democratic society, govern by the rule of law.
People cannot afford to live in fear of being shot and killed when they riot or protest. Riots are societal problems and different people join riot for different reasons. It is the duty of the government to examine and understand the context in which riots and social disorder take place at any given time. This is necessary from a policy perspective. What are the causes of the riots, which type of people that joined riots; what can be done to ensure we provide solutions to the causes. These are questions any responsible government will contend with.
Protest and demonstrations are public expression of citizens making known their concerns and grievances. These are human rights issues –protected by the constitution of Sierra Leone and the Geneva convention on human rights.
Modern policing rely more in the use of technology, intelligence , community engagement and professionalism as the tools in keeping us safe. I recommend this to the law enforcement agencies in Sierra Leone.
Society is never at ease unless those task with enforcement and prevention of crime do so without political influence exerted.
I hope the police in Sierra Leone are given the support and resources to do their jobs without political interference or intimidation and fear of losing their jobs.