John Baimba Sesay- China
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 August 2016
In a June 2012 article titled “A societal problem demanding societal solution”, I dilated on the relevance of having an acceptable level of trust and confidence when it comes to the public and our law enforcement agency – the police.
My argument back then concluded on the need for collective support as the police and public would need each other.
Sierra Leone had an extremely terrible civil war experience that lasted for over a decade. We today enjoy peace, which, though led by government, was as a result of our preparedness and resilience as a country to seek and subsequently achieve it.
Through that toughness and commitment to rebuilding our nation, we are gradually making progress in rebuilding the very broken foundation we had prior to our war era.
Recent development in Kabala is no good news for us. Protests form part of democracy. But crucially, security is vital for the growth of a nation’s democratic credentials.
The police and citizens alike are partners in development. This makes it compelling for us to collaborate, especially in enhancing our country’s internal security and stability.
Indeed, the public’s expectation of the police is great. That said, we should manage expectations realistically as that is vital in fostering healthy relationship between the two.
The police force may have its own challenges, but that should not warrant the public to have mistrust in it, because we always need security.
Public perception about the police comes to mind. Our respective attitudes should help shape our perceptions. Perceptions help determine the level of trust or mistrust one may have over the other.
The police force is expected to maintain law and order. There are moments they may be faced with huge challenges to the point of using all available means they have in calming down situation. Reasonable restraint and caution could be required.
The death of an individual may have a long term impact on his/her family. All available options, (rules of engagement) must therefore be utilized before resorting to firing live bullets.
That said, the death (killing) of one should not be avenged by attacks on the killer, rather the rule of law must be allowed to operate. When once we turn our anger on the law enforcing body, it then becomes a threat to national security.
We need to look at, and address key issues.
Local policing policy, through Partnership Boards was introduced across Sierra Leone. Can these boards get back to the table and have a thorough review?
Overall, there is need for a review of the relationship between the public and police; constant radio discussion programs, regular meetings with stakeholders will help; the media has a role to play- production of radio jingles on message of national cohesion could be of great help. All of that should help ensure a cordial working relationship.
It is good that we have an open space in terms of the use of social media. But it also has its own challenges. Given our past history, we could do ourselves good if we use it properly.
Fanning flames of anger via social media could not be the best thing to do to our nation. At the end, when there is a serious national threat, it affects us all as a country irrespective of one’s background or beliefs.
We do need the police; they have a major role to play in our growth process. They too should, however come to terms with the present day needs and expectations, and do all they could to meet them.
The public on the other hand should exercise restraint for the good of country. Without security we are bound to be ungovernable.
The Sierra Leone Police Force, close to a decade has been engaged in intensive reforms in the areas of change management and training, crime management operations and support services.
The government continues to invest huge resources into the force for the good of the country. We should not allow these successes to diminish overnight.
Security is a collective national duty, not only limited to government. These are basic societal challenges we should overcome. May commonsense prevail and may the souls of the departed youths rest well.