Liberia: Correction and City Police Officers Wearing Identical Uniform

Officers of the Monrovia City Police

Monrovia – officers of the Bureau of Correction (BCR) and Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) are now seen across streets of Monrovia attired in indistinguishable uniforms, something experts say might have some security implications.

Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]

They say this makes it difficult to identify the two set of officers especially if a crime is committed.

Johnny Bolar Dean, former investigator of Liberia National Police said it is unlawful on grounds that tracing the particular entity will be difficult if two entities wear the same uniform, adding that the two entities should correct the wrong.

The MCC, before the ascendency of current mayor Jefferson Koijee, wore dark Gray top and Blue short.  Now, they are wearing bright gray same as officers of BCR officers have been wearing.

“In an emergency situation, you don’t want to have to look around to determine the right person to go to. If there’s a uniformed officer on hand, the decision is easily made for anybody and will instantly recognize the person to alert,” he said, adding that there are five key reasons for uniform as it relates to paramilitary.

“Peace of Mind for the General public – when security officers are on hand and in uniform, the public is reassured by their presence,” he said.

Dean added that security officers wearing uniform is for greater deterrence of crimes, saying “when a would-be criminal sees an officer in uniform on location, this provides a strong deterrent for crime or criminal activities.

“When an officer puts on the uniform, they’re able to feel a sense of pride in their own presentation, and in their affiliation,” he said.

According to him, it is a reflection of the professionalism of the peoples in addition to the security institution itself, and that it is proper and appropriate for two security institutions not to wear the same uniform.

Correction Officers of the Ministry of Justice

Oliver Briggs, former correction officer in an exclusive interview with FPA, added he was surprised that to see officers of the two institutions wearing the same uniform.

“That shouldn’t be the case. Two different security agencies using the same uniform should not be supported by any head,” he advised.

Briggs thinks that the BCR is the only security agency lawfully authorized to use the uniform in question.

The ex-correction officer said BCR has for several years used the current uniform, long before any other security apparatus.

He said though there is no law to regulate the uniform amongst security agencies of the country, a statute was drafted during ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf regime but has not been enacted.

“In any case, I still feel that even in the absence of a law against such practice, no two security agencies should use the same outfit,” he said.  “I and many others, believe that such uncontrolled practice only breeds confusion and a high degree of security risks.”

Marc Amblard, former Inspector general of the Liberia National Police, recalled how customs revenue class A uniform was like the Police class A uniforms and it  was changed after a complaint was made.

With current situation, Amblard says there could be some implications or there could be none.

“It’s highly speculative to predict one way or another. The rules forbid private security uniforms from resembling state security uniforms but it is silent as it regards intra state uniforms,” he said.

When contacted, Eddie Tarawali, Assistant Minister of correction and rehabilitation at the Ministry of Justice, told FPA that he is not embarrassed by the uniform. He recommended that our reporter speak with the head of joint security team.

Pekeleh Gbuapaye, Public Relations officer at MCC, in an interview with FPA said the uniform is the original uniform of the city government.

MCC has taken notice of both institutions wearing the same uniform but contested that the color has been the original color of the City Corporation since 1904, that was even before BCR was established, he said.

Gbuapaye noted that the MCC is returning to its roots thereby changing gray and blue that was previously worn to entirely gray.

“The thing is not why was it changed, the thing is who is the original owner of the gray color, looking back at history when the city police was established, the gray is the original,” he said, adding that both institutions wearing the same uniform is not an embarrassment.

“That is the reason we have told our officers to carry the badge so they can be distinguished from BCR officer. So, we do not see any problem with that.”

Theresa Paye, a petty trader, said she has no time to distinguish between the officer on grounds that both of them attire in the same uniform.

“For me, I can read, what about those who can’t, why if it is BCR officers raiding us from the street, which time we will have to read their badge to know if they are MCC or BCR officer,” she said.

Theresa is recommending that the Ministry of Justice takes charge of the issue so that both entities can be distinguished.

Alieu Farr, a money exchanger, added that “it is unfortunate” that the two entities will choose to confuse citizens, knowing that not many citizens are educated.

“I don’t have time to read like many others, the other day we saw BCR officer we were running, thinking it  was MCC officers, so the people who should take control, handle this, they must do it now.”

Meanwhile, several Monrovia city police officers are still using the Gray and Blue uniform especially those assigned at the Monrovia City Court.