Ganta, Nimba County - To unite forces in fighting crimes, community members, police and other security officers have unanimously agreed to cement their relationship in protecting lives and properties.
As part of their agreement, the community members vowed to report crimes and work with the police to settle minor offenses, rather than going to the police stations which will end up sending alleged perpetrators to prison causing congestion at those facilities.
They also vowed to report those involved in the sale of illicit substances in their respective communities. Something, they said, will help alleviate neighborhood crimes and make communities peaceful.
Meanwhile, police officers also agreed to follow all measures that will help protect lives and properties and ensure speedy adjudication of cases by forwarding those involved to court.
The agreement was reached at a community-policing forum organized by Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL) in Ganta, Nimba County.
RAL, has over the years, provides alternatives to enhancing human rights, rule of law, peace and democracy building and victim’s recovery.
The one-day forum was geared towards highlighting the role of the police in the protection of lives and properties and the role of magistrates in reducing pretrial detention among others.
The interactive forum held at the Ganta Concern Women Center brought together over 40 participants including traditional women, students, magistrates, judges, police officers and community leaders among others.
The forum is part of the ‘Community Policing Initiative, A Prisoner’s Rights and Police Reform project by Rescue Alternatives Liberia in collaboration with the Liberia National Police (LNP) with community members.
Community members adopted the principle of, “My police, my respect, my support; while Police Officers said: “My community, my police, my employers, my strength”.
Making an introductory statement, the Senior Program officer of RAL, Sam Nimley reminded the participants about the essence of security, particularly the relationships that must exist between the police and the community.
“Please feel free to talk to the police on issues. Don’t take laws into your own hands. Work with the police as partners in fighting crimes and making the community save for everyone,” he said.
For his part, the Deputy Chief of Community Policing at the Ganta Police Detail, Lawrence Johnson, who spoke as one of the facilitators on the “Role of the police in the protection of lives and property,” appealed to the participants to help the police in making their communities save by reporting all crimes, perceived crimes among others.
“Community policing helps to build strong bonds, but it doesn’t mean things will automatically change overnight, but it gives chance to the citizens to have peace in the community. Help reduce neighborhood crimes, it will be helpful to the community,” he said.
At the same time, the Magistrate at the Ganta Magisterial Court, Nyah Ben who spoke on the “role of the magisterial court in the reduction of pretrial detention” reminded the community members that the essence of sending somebody to the police station or jail doesn’t mean they are outcast of the society.
Magistrate Ben said the weight is on the Magistrates to entertain intervention, correction, based on the gravity of the crimes, saying “the magistrate should be able to accept intervention when an individual assures them of filing as bond for someone who is awaiting trial.”
“We should be able to embrace, recognize community intervention in problem-solving and work with the community members. The magistrate should accept intervention and don’t make demand, although it will be justifiable at times. Doing this will help reduce pretrial detention, because if the person doesn’t have bond, family members, it will become a problem,” he said.
He recommended that there is a need to make use of the Alternative Disputes Resolution (ADR) method in solving issues, which he said would meaningfully contribute to reducing pretrial detention.
“We (magistrates and community members) should make use of the Alternative Disputes Resolution (ADR) in reducing the overcrowdiness of the various prison facilities. We must make sure to use the available ADR setup or initiate ADR on our own. Appreciate the work of probation officer. The essence of the criminal justice system must be realized and those who are wrong must be corrected. Approximately 90% of those in pretrial detention come from the magisterial court,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Mayor of Ganta City, Amos Suah has vowed to work with all communities in the city to see the police as partners in ending crimes.
Mayor Suah said his administration will ensure the protection of the city, while assuring the RAL that the city government will work with the local organization.