Advertisement

Inspector General of Police: 'LNP Constrained In Many Ways’

Inspector General of Police: 'LNP Constrained In Many Ways’

Monrovia - When President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf tipped Gregory “Buster” Coleman as her new Inspector General of Police, not many had heard about the new crime czar.


James Giahyue Harding, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; Bettie Johnson-Mbayo, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


But Coleman, a 2016 graduate of a one-year Mid-Career Master in Public Administration program at the Kennedy School, in his first, exclusive interview with FrontPageAfrica says he is up to the challenge.

Even before he came to Harvard, Coleman was changing his views about Police work. In Coleman is taking over a post marred by distrust of the Police by the community, rising cases of armed robbery and a nation on the mends, looking to turn the corner from war to peace while gearing up to carry on the handling of the security sector in the wake of the departure of the United Nations Mission in Liberia.

In this exclusive interview, coming on the eve of the release of this year’s United States Human Rights Report which has been unkind to the LNP in the past few years, Mr. Coleman outline his plans to reform the LNP, emerging and existing challenges and how he hopes to improve Community-Police relations during his time at the helm.

“When we talk about creating a safe environment to foster economic growth and development, you have to make the people and the investors comfortable to be able to move to any parts of the country.

Whilst it is true that these people themselves are victims of the systemic issues—the problem we have to deal with is not Police problem is system problem—they kind of impede our functions, so if we cannot deal with them we cannot have our parts of the job taken care of ”– Col. Gregory Coleman, Inspector General, Liberia National Police

COL. GREGORY COLEMAN: Well, I will leave that to the public to determine but I will tell you what we have done. We started to go after the criminals day and night. We’ve launched Operations Visibility, we have been going to criminal hideout, ghettoes—some areas we didn’t think criminals would be residing in on the basis of intelligent gathering. We’ve seen good results. Our number of calls at night has drastically reduced.

We’ve been able to have serious engagement with the armed robbers; right now their feet are to the fire so that can’t even sit one place to consolidate to launch a full attack. We can promise the Liberian people that we will continue to mount this pressure until we see massive reduction in the area of not just armed robbery but all violent crimes.

FRONTPAGEAFRICA: People have told us that you have been running behind these people they call zogos—astray youths, drug addicts, pickpockets and all these people in the street. What is the connection between these zogos and armed robbery?

COLEMAN: When we talk about creating a safe environment to foster economic growth and development, you have to make the people and the investors comfortable to be able to move to any parts of the country. Whilst it is true that these people themselves are victims of the systemic issues—the problem we have to deal with is not Police problem is system problem—they kind of impede our functions, so if we cannot deal with them we cannot have our parts of the job taken care of.

The issue with these guys in the street is the serious issue. We are concerned about it. We are not just trying to move them from the street, we are going beyond that. We have been trying to talk to other partners to see what other programs can be developed to incorporate them and try to rehabilitate them and put them back into society.

But for now, we have to keep the street free that people can walk, people can take taxi freely at night and during the day and create a safe zone. People shouldn’t be in free. It is not just those guys that everyone knows that be zogos. Not just them.

Beyond that group, there are other people who dress very decently and have been threading that path and causing havoc for the people as well. So, we are going after all of them. We’re using intelligence-driven strategy that is seemingly very, very effective. There will be a massive reduction in crime. There has been already from the past few days since we took over and there will be even more reduction. Over the next few days, you will see increased visibility [of Police]. We’ve just been blessed with 16 Toyota Hilux. I don’t believe that they are ready for use.

We are trying to craft a usage policy for those vehicles, especially for the emergency device. Most times you see security vehicles with siren on, lights but sometimes they don’t even have emergency. So those vehicles get in the streets, I want to make sure that there is a policy that guides that to make sure you don’t have the misuse of emergency devices, and that the vehicles are properly managed the maintained.  

We are also looking at getting radios in them. Right now the cars are here but it looks like their engines are not in because I cannot put a car in the street that I cannot track. I will have to raise vehicle on the radio—Mobil X, Y, Z—so that you know exactly where they are to be able to respond to situation. So as soon as all those things are put in place, you will see those vehicles strategically deployed at various locations to be able to curb crimes and deter would-be violators.

It is our aspiration that we will be able to create an environment that will be suitable for the safety and wellbeing of all residing within the 43,000 square miles, one that will promote economic growth and development. It is my hope that we at the Liberian National Police are going to achieve that within the timeframe (remaining portion of this administration.

I am not a stranger to that area as it relates to this entire area. Before leaving to go for studies, I served as focal person on the UNMIL Transition Committee, so all of what are being carried out now are things that we have prepared for. Over the last two years, we familiarized ourselves with them.

My ascendancy into this position just puts me a better seat to be able to roll up what was a part of crafting. So it is not anything strange for me to say someone is coming into the middle of the transition. I’ve got hands on it and we will be able to perform to the best of our ability, and that ‘best of our ability’ means policing that will be internationally accepted, respecting the rights of the people and delivering the needed services beyond the Police services.

FRONTPAGEAFRICA: During your confirmation, you stressed that you would tackle armed robbery and we were talking about Police presence throughout the city and its environs—throughout the country. Tell us how has that operation been?

COL. GREGORY COLEMAN: Well, I will leave that to the public to determine but I will tell you what we have done. We started to go after the criminals day and night. We’ve launched Operations Visibility, we have been going to criminal hideout, ghettoes—some areas we didn’t think criminals would be residing in on the basis of intelligent gathering. We’ve seen good results. Our number of calls at night has drastically reduced.

We’ve been able to have serious engagement with the armed robbers; right now their feet are to the fire so that can’t even sit one place to consolidate to launch a full attack. We can promise the Liberian people that we will continue to mount this pressure until we see massive reduction in the area of not just armed robbery but all violent crimes.

FRONTPAGEAFRICA: People have told us that you have been running behind these people they call zogos—astray youths, drug addicts, pickpockets and all these people in the street. What is the connection between these zogos and armed robbery?

COL. GREGORY COLEMAN: When we talk about creating a safe environment to foster economic growth and development, you have to make the people and the investors comfortable to be able to move to any parts of the country. Whilst it is true that these people themselves are victims of the systemic issues—the problem we have to deal with is not Police problem is system problem—they kind of impede our functions, so if we cannot deal with them we cannot have our parts of the job taken care of. The issue with these guys in the street is the serious issue. We are concerned about it.

We are not just trying to move them from the street, we are going beyond that. We have been trying to talk to other partners to see what other programs can be developed to incorporate them and try to rehabilitate them and put them back into society. But for now, we have to keep the street free that people can walk, people can take taxi freely at night and during the day and create a safe zone. People shouldn’t be in free. It is not just those guys that everyone knows that be zogos.

Not just them. Beyond that group, there are other people who dress very decently and have been threading that path and causing havoc for the people as well. So, we are going after all of them. We’re using intelligence-driven strategy that is seemingly very, very effective.

There will be a massive reduction in crime. There has been already from the past few days since we took over and there will be even more reduction. Over the next few days, you will see increased visibility [of Police]. We’ve just been blessed with 16 Toyota Hilux. I don’t believe that they are ready for use. We are trying to craft a usage policy for those vehicles, especially for the emergency device. Most times you see security vehicles with siren on, lights but sometimes they don’t even have emergency.

So those vehicles get in the streets, I want to make sure that there is a policy that guides that to make sure you don’t have the misuse of emergency devices, and that the vehicles are properly managed the maintained.  

We are also looking at getting radios in them. Right now the cars are here but it looks like their engines are not in because I cannot put a car in the street that I cannot track. I will have to raise vehicle on the radio—Mobil X, Y, Z—so that you know exactly where they are to be able to respond to situation. So as soon as all those things are put in place, you will see those vehicles strategically deployed at various locations to be able to curb crimes and deter would-be violators.

FRONTPAGEAFRICA: How is your collaboration the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) because you talk about ‘zogoism’, the use of drugs and illicit substance? What is your administration going to do about this problem?

COL. GREGORY COLEMAN: There is no way we can succeed as a national security body without cooperating, collaborating and coordinating of limited resources that is across the entire sector. So the relationship is cordial, not just with the DEA but with the [Executive Protective Service, the Armed Forces of Liberia and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization]. We enjoy a very cordial working relationship and we are even going to improve that over the coming months to be able to launch joint exercises like what you saw over “Watch over five”. We will have more of those exercises but this time with Police taking the lead.

FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Mostly, the courts blame the Police of losing cases on the case that they fail provide correct FOC(Fruit of Crime). Have you put in some plans to work that out?

COL. GREGORY COLEMAN: We all have concerns. The court has got concerns; we’ve got our concern. They’ve expressed us directly, accusing us showing our lapses. We want to reserve our concern and ask them to address it in-house, probably even [graver] than not having proper evidence for the case.

There are a lot of things that are going behind the scene. Right now as I speak to you there is an ongoing exercise with the U.S. embassy, the International Narcotic Law Enforcement Office (INL) for the recommendation of the restructure and reform of the CSD.

When that is completed and all of the recommendations are carried out, we will see a lot of improvements in these things. A lot of these things that we are very concerned about is the chain of custody for FOC. When that is done, there will be improvement in that area. In addition to that, we are working closely with the Swedes.

They are to be sending some Police officers here as investigators to work at designated Police units around the city—Zone 6, Zone 8, Zone 10—to help our guys to make sure that when they send a case to court, everything that is needed to accompany and make a strong case to be won in court will be attached to it. So, we acknowledged that we do have some faults but we are working on it and we will see some improvements.

FRONTPAGEAFRICA: You outlined several segments of the Police but we are also concerned over the issue of the women and children section. Are there plans that you have to have the section have a reserved area for rape victims?

COL. GREGORY COLEMAN: We are constrained in many ways but the Women and Children Protection Section has been given a lot of attention and it is my hope to even increase the attention given because of the sensitive nature of cases handled there. I stand very, very strongly against the issue of rape, and Women and Children Protection has been handling that very effectively.

I will be working with them closely and be sounding out the caveat to any would-be rapist that the Liberian National Police will be ready to go after you wherever you go. We will follow you, trace you, find you and bring you to the law and make sure that you will be prosecuted. And to the victims, we are going to ensure they will be properly protected and rehabilitated before sending them back because they come with a lot of trauma when these things happen.

We are working closely with the Sexual and Gender Based Violence Unit from the Ministry of Justice, and we are very, very serious about those violent crimes that have been committed against women and sometimes at children.

FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Can we count on you to have a proper stat of those crimes that are reported on a daily basis?

COL. GREGORY COLEMAN: Definitely, I will like to furnish the media with the data. There are a lot of good things that happen behind the scene but they are not presented to the public. Going forward, I have also instructed [Police spokesman Sam Collins] that every personnel action taken here—suspension, dismissal—must be communicated to the public so that the public can know that these officers are not just causing problem and going scot-free but they are being punished for various reasons.

FRONTPAGEAFRICA: We learned that one of the top issues on your agenda is this issue of traffic violation. Tell us more about that.

COL. GREGORY COLEMAN: It is the issue of public safety. Like I said during my confirmation, there have been more deaths as it relates to public safety and concerns than there have been deaths from violent crimes. So, my thing is that we have to pay attention to public safety. We are going to be continuously enforcing the Vehicle and Traffic Laws very rigorously. The issue of the opposite lane on the Tubman Boulevard is a serious risk.

We will continue to enforce it; we will continue to issue tickets. We are calling on the relevant government agencies to cooperate with us and abide by the Vehicle and Traffic Laws, and private citizens alike that are continuing to violate it, we are asking them to desist.

When the Police officer stops you to put you on your lane, he is not stopping you because he wants to harass you. He is stopping you because he has a charge to keep, to protect you. What you do when you get on the opposite lane is that you expose yourself to danger.

Another vehicle run into you, it could damage your property, it could affect your life as well. Because we are charged with the responsibility by the Constitution to protect lives and properties, whether you are a Liberian citizen or visiting here or whatever, once you find yourselves in these 43,000 square miles, we are duly bound to protect you. 

It looks weird and irresponsible to see you going on the opposite lane. If you want to get to work early, get up early and get to work on time, taking into consideration that we do not have roads. The problem we deal with is not a Police problem. It is a road problem. When this city was built, it was anticipated for 250,000 people and by then they were not even thinking about having 250,000 cars. Now we are having more than a million people in this city and we have hundreds of thousands of vehicle right now, so it is almost impossible.

Many times I get the call “Why don’t we have three lanes?” If I tell you to get on a third lane without an amendment to the law or an executive order, whatever happens I am still responsible.   Even if government decided to do so, I will advise the government against it because if you look at the road, there is almost no shoulder.

So, if there was an emergency vehicle coming in the same direction there will be places where vehicles cannot get off the road and you would have that emergency vehicle standing still and that could endanger the life of another citizen. It is my hope and aspiration that all of us Liberians, regardless of where you from, whatever position you hold, respect the rule of law and aide by the Vehicle and Traffic Laws. 

FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Don’t you think you are too young for this job?

COL. GREGORY COLEMAN: If you look in biblical times, a lot of the kings that left good marks were very young people. One thing we know since the Liberian National Police was established we have always had older men heading the Liberian National Police, and the Police is here it is today.

Looking at what the Police is today, a young man has come up, let’s give the young man a trial and see what he can do differently from what the older men have done. I am very confident coming to this position and I know that yes, I can ably handle the office of the Inspector General of the Police. I cannot do it with my own understanding by seeking the understanding from above.

FRONTPAGEAFRICA: As we draw near to the 2017 election, are you prepared for it?

COL. GREGORY COLEMAN: For the 2017 elections, you can rest assure that we are doing everything in our power to make sure we have smooth, peaceful election. Election is something that I have been a part of. I was involved with the 2005 elections planning. For the 2011 elections I was not a part of it because I was not in the Police. The last Senatorial election I was part of it and have been a part of bye-elections around the country. While I was at the Kennedy School of Government, one of the areas that I put a lot of emphasis was electoral integrity...

So, I have a charge to ensure that the security component of this election is going to be unquestionable. We are going to perform to the best of our ability; we are going to cooperate with all of the other security agencies if they need our support, especially as it relates to manpower to be able to cover all of the precincts adequately. We are going to be very, very neutral.

FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Talking about the elections… how far has your deployment of Police officers to be deployed at voting precincts has gone?

COL. GREGORY COLEMAN: As it relates to the elections, we have completed our plan and our plan is in three stages. The first stage has to do with conflict prevention, community policing. If you look at the mitigation of crisis… it is always advisable to put most of your money into prevention so as to avoid going to the residual stage, where you have to go into recovery. The first stage should have already begun but we are behind schedule.

The government has made some commitment that in this fiscal year we will get some funding to run it through. We are not just waiting for few days to elections to begin deploying men. We are engaging all stakeholders, potential actors of violence. We are going to engage with political parties; we are going to assign Police officers with political parties—getting all of their schedules to make sure that we don’t have two parties going for rally in the same areas.

We are going to make sure that the communication line is open so that we can keep track of all the activities not because we want to spy on them but because we want to provide them the needed security.

We are going to take our men to them. In 2011 the PSU and ERU officers clashed with opposition people because they were not familiar to them, they did not have any prior interaction with them. Within this conflict prevention stage, we are going to take the ERU and PSU to the communities, explaining about their roles to the community. In that way we will reduce the risk of a violent elections, we could increase Police legitimacy, we could improve our response time and we could also see increase in public trust. But all these things are going to be possible if we get the necessary support and carry out our plan.

FRONTPAGEAFRICA: We learn that there has been an increase in armed robbery on Randal Street. What are you doing about it?

COL. GREGORY COLEMAN: We have seen a massive reduction of armed robbery over the last week. We will try to continue to cut it down, but the problem here is that we are going to engage these guys but people are to be held accountable at all levels. When we send them to court, the court must make sure they go to prison; the prison must make sure they stay there and get rehabilitated before they are placed back into street.

Most times we see that there are…armed robbers who we don’t expect to be in the street in due course coming right back on the street, and the more they come the more violent they become.  The Randal Street community? That is new to me because I haven’t seen that report from Randal Street. Thanks for the information. We are going to concentrate more teams there. Over the next few days, you will see increased visibility all over not just in Monrovia but Suburban Monrovia as well.

FRONTPAGEAFRICA: We see some reduction in traffic violation in the morning but sometimes the Police cars are in front of the queue and they are not watching the back of the queue. This gone Monday, the Police stopped a whole chain of them. So what happens to them? Are they forwarded for further investigation or they just let them go like that?

COL. GREGORY COLEMAN: Normally, what we do is that we start to issue tickets to those guys. Sometimes one or two will go by. You cannot catch everyone as the same time but there are regular violators down that road. A lot of people stay in the line and respect themselves.  Our part is to give you ticket when you violate.

Next week we are going to have a workshop and we will bring in more officers to train them in the area of ticket, and when that is done you will see more ticket books out there. Some of the time the officers who stop those guys do not have ticket books, they don’t even know how to issue ticket. When we train them to it, there will be more ticket books on the line and there will be more tickets issued.

Another thing that we are very much concerned about is commercializing of private vehicles. You no longer see taxis in the street. Everyone has a private vehicle and they are picking and dropping passengers. It is totally unacceptable. We started the enforcement. My guys started issue at least 125 tickets on a daily basis in the last two weeks. Right now the Transport Ministry called us that taxis are going to pick up their plates.

The next thing is two in the front. That has to stop immediately. These are the reasons sometimes the drivers lose control because they don’t sufficient space to operate the vehicles.

 

Advertisement