Liberia: Police Warn Officers against Inhumane Treatment of Violators of Covid-19 Health Protocols; Cautions Citizens Not to Pay Fines to Police

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MONROVIA – The Liberia National Police (LNP) has issued a stern warning against its officers who are in the constant habit of receiving monies from Liberians and foreign nationals as fine for violating protocols or measures instituted by authorities of the Ministry of Health to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus across the country.

Photos and videos of extra-judicial punishments being given to citizens and foreign nationals by unidentified LNP officers wearing uniforms for allegedly violating the wearing of nose masks, refusing to close entertainment centers by 9 PM, among others, went viral on social media last week.

Some citizens, including females, were made to “pump tyre” for several minutes for either improperly wearing nose masks, or not wearing it at all.

‘Pumping tyre’ is a punishment in which individual places two fingers on both hands into his/her ears and go up and down consistently.

The compulsory wearing of nose mask is one of the protocols put in place by health authorities to contain the spread of the virus.

The government mandated that the amount of L$1500 should be paid as fine by anyone caught in the public wearing a nose mask improperly, or seen without a nose mask.

But there are reports that some officers are in the constant habit of receiving the fine from violators, instead of it (fine) being deposited in the account of the Liberia government.

According to Police Spokesman Moses Carter, the LNP will not hesitate to take punitive actions against any of its officers who receive money from violators or solicit bribe to relax on the full implementation of the measures issues to combat against the Coronavirus pandemic in Liberia.

He made these comments in an interview with FrontPage Africa via telephone on Monday, July 12, 2021.

He pointed out that authorities of the LNP have done sufficient awareness on the proper wearing of a masks, and as such, officers should not relent to arrest and further detain or incarcerate anyone who is caught without wearing a nose mask, or is wearing mask improperly.

Mr. Carter noted that no police officer should flog or beat on citizens or other foreign nationals for violating the health protocols.

He maintained that any officer caught will be investigated at the Professional Standard Division (PSD) of the LNP and prosecuted in keeping with the laws of the country.

“Anyone who is caught wearing nose mask half-way or you are not wearing nose mask at all, you will be arrested and you will pay a fine of L$1500 in government revenue. No police officer is to subject any of our citizens to extra judicial punishment like pumping tyre or flogging them. Any officer caught will be forwarded to Professional Standards. We have said to our officers that no one is supposed to be flogged anyhow for not wearing nose mask; that is very clear”.

Drop the cane

Mr. Carter further clarified that officers holding rattan or “cane” on the streets to exercise extra judicial punishment are doing so at their own risk.

According to him, officers who are in the constant habit of using cane to flog violators for committing petty crimes did not receive any mandate from their bosses to do so, and as such, citizens, including journalists should document those human right abuses and actions will be taken against the officers involved.

“Flogging violators with cane is not in place and it is not part of our instruction to them. Anyone who does it is doing it on his or her own. But what we are asking is for you members of the press to be able to help give us information-any officer that is on the streets chasing citizens with rattan to flog them, we ask you to document actions and we will definitely take actions”.

“Any officer found extorting or receiving this fine (L$1500) said officer will face the full weight of the law because, the money is to be paid in government’s coffers and not in officers’ pockets. Any officer asks ‘pay the money to me’ that mean you are doing it on your own”.

Mr. Carter added that citizens who have paid fines to officers should also make sure or establish that those fines were paid into government’s coffers by these officers.

He further disclosed that no citizens or foreign national is to be kept in further detention by any police officer at various depots across the country, after he or she has paid the fine for violating the health protocols, including the compulsory wearing of nose mask in the public.

He stated that though the fine appears to be small, it may be increased by the LNP to generate more revenue for the government when the number of violators continues to increase on a daily basis.

Mr. Carter pointed out that the police will not vacillate to increase the fine if individuals take advantage of the small amount to consistently engage into violation.

Funeral homes succumb

Sometimes ago, the Government of Liberia (GOL) shut down two funeral homes, including the St. Moses Funeral Parlour and the Stryker Funeral Home on the Somalia Drive and Sinkor respectively for violating the health protocols.

The government claimed that social distancing and the gathering of only 20 persons per funeral service were not observed by the two entities when they held funeral services at their respective entities recently.

Following the payment of US$200 each, the both funeral homes were re-opened by the government.

According to Mr. Carter, the timely payment of the fines by the funeral homes compelled the LNP to increase the amount from US$200 to US$1500.

He observed that since the increment of the amount, funeral homes across the country are “cooperating”, adding that, “we will not hesitate to continue our regular routine to any of the places that we need to visit”.

Hindrances  

Meanwhile, the LNP Spokesman has disclosed that the lack of adequate support to the police makes it difficult for the body to execute its assigned tasks and responsibilities in an effective and efficient manner in the wake of the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country.

He added that LNP officers continue to experience constraints in commuting from one place to another due to the lack of sufficient vehicles.

“We have lot of challenges and one is mobility. The government has done its best to give us few vehicles or pickups but we need more to be able to enhance our patrol”.

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