20 June 2012
As a young police officer appeared in court yesterday, charged with the murder – unlawful shooting of a young motorbike rider near York in Freetown, questions must now be asked as to whether the police officer had the authority to open fire on the bike rider.
Questions must also be asked about the police force’s rules of engagement and modus operandi, with respect to suspected traffic related offences, as well as the seeming breakdown in communication in the force’s chain of command.
The police officer is reported to have only recently joined the force and completed his basic training a month ago.
Why are inexperienced and newly recruited officers being issued with fire arms?
Why is the police force using military grade firearms in situations where the threat to life is not apparent and immediate?
Has the government issued a shoot to kill policy to the police force?
Why are the senior commanding officers responsible for the unit, not being held accountable and responsible also?
The 23 year old accused officer – Augustine Bangura, appeared in Court No. 2 yesterday, presided over by Magistrate Komba Kamanda, and was charged with the alleged murder of the bike rider – Mohamed Sulaiman Quarashi.
The officer, who is reported to be facing one count charge of murder, contrary to the laws of Sierra Leone, is yet to be represented by a defence lawyer.
There are concerns by human rights activists in the country, that the young and inexperienced officer is being used as sacrificial lamb by the government, for the serious failings of those responsible for the police force.
According to the particulars of offence read out in Court No. 2 yesterday, the accused officer Bangura, is alleged to have murdered Mohamed Sulaiman Quarashi – a motor bike rider, on Friday, 15th June, 2012, at Mambo Village, York, at around 3 a.m.
The case was adjourned until Monday, 23rd June, 2012, and the accused was remanded in custody at the Pademba Road Prison by Magistrate Kamanda.
The question that remains on everyone’s lips is why a young, inexperienced and newly recruited police officer was armed with military grade firearms?
Did he believe himself to have had the authority to shoot on that fateful morning?
The motor bike rider is alleged to have gone through a police check point after failing to stop, when shouted at to do so by the officers managing the checkpoint.
But, so far, there is no evidence that the bike rider in any way threatened the lives of those officers present at the check point.
In addition to the police shooting in York, there have been three other fatalities in the last two months involving the use of police firearms.
President Koroma has ordered the launch of a coroner’s inquest into the police shooting and killing of two youths in Wellington, the killing of an innocent man in Bo, and the death of a female protester during an industrial dispute involving a mining company in the north of the country.
There are fears in the capital – Freetown, of an alarming rise in armed robbery, which many believed to have prompted the police to change its strategy and adopted a ‘shoot to kill policy’.
But opposition political parties and civil rights activists are worried that such uncontrolled use of highly dangerous firearms by an unprofessional and inexperienced police force, could fuel the prospect of serious violence at the polls in November.