Liberia: ‘Missing Links’ Expose Police Inability to Gather Timely Intelligence

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Report by Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, [email protected]

Monrovia – There’s most likely a “missing link” within the operations of the Liberia National Police that is distorting moves to curb the wave of crimes that have recently occurred in Monrovia and its environs, says Senator Steve Zargo, Chairman on Security and Intelligence committee of the Liberian Senate.

The apparent lapses in the Liberia National Police are springing from missteps in the appointments of individuals within the intelligence component of the force.

The Lofa County lawmaker said the police, which is the first line of national security that interacts directly with most citizens than any other security apparatus, must have the instrumentality to be efficient and pre-empt potential crimes.

“Monrovia has become congested and with this population, you need to have the police to match with the population, and the police that have the instrumentality to gather the kind of information to be a bit proactive,” the veteran security expert said during an exclusive interview with FrontPageAfrica.

Senator Zargo’s assessment of the country’s security situation comes following announcements by the LNP and the Ministry of Justice that 14 homicides and or suspicious deaths were reported only in the month of April.

Between April 1 and 19, six persons including Journalist Tyron Browne were killed. His body was dumped near his residence in the Duport Road Community.

The LNP said the deaths stemmed from armed robbery, electrocution, shooting and homicide incidents.

Under pressure from the public to respond to the wave of murders, LNP Inspector General Patrick Sudue assured that his force was working overtime to fight crime and he asked the citizenry to applaud the LNP for apprehending suspects linked to the murder of the Liberian journalist.

“Our work is delicate and we’re committed to investigating before coming to the public. We’re not deterred by the criticisms, but we’re working over time,” Sudue said.

But, Senator Zargo, who also has some laudable comments for the police, stressed that there were some questionable appointments made in the national security institutions that are most likely creating loopholes in intelligence gathering.

“What intelligence-led investigation does is that it leads to investigation after doing analysis that will thwart any situation. So, in my mind I think we have to work on that,” he said of some recent appointments within the LNP intelligence unit.

The veteran security expert-turned-lawmaker says ignoring the “expertise of experienced inconspicuous agents” is a misstep that impedes the gathering of intelligence data by the police.

“Because we elevated people in the plain-clothes component of the LNP, which is the intelligence component, the investigative component and the Interpol component, it was believe that the person who will serve the position should be a trained person, who has worked within that layer, so that they understand the sector,” he said.

Making appointments of officers in the force who are relatively new to a specific division that deals with covert operations has the propensity to undermine the performance of the police in curbing crime, said Zargo.

He added that some appointees have worked in other departments within the police force but they have limited experience or have not worked in a particular department that focuses on investigation, intelligence and Interpol.

“So, if there is a missing link, it is that intelligence missing link that needs to be re-harness and recoded so as to be pre-emptive when dealing with criminal investigation,” he said.

Growing concerns over the number of recent suspicious deaths, amongst them homicides, is sparking debate over the adequacy of the new Liberian government handling of its own security following the pull out of UNMIL.

But the Senate Chair on National Security and Intelligence argues that “it is too early to conclude that our security system has relapsed following the exit of UNMIL,” adding that there were suspicious deaths even in the presence of a huge UN forces in the country.

He then lauded the police for probing the murder of journalist Tyron Brown and the subsequent arrest of a suspect, who has confessed to the commission of the crime.

He claimed the outcome of the investigation ended narratives of a conspiracy theory that state-actors were involved with the death of the video journalist.

He also mentioned the seizure of huge quantity of firearms ammunitions as a commendable move by the Police, but cautions officers to conduct themselves in accordance with the laws governing the security sector.

Security Budget Concern

Meanwhile, Commenting on the over US$28.6 million appropriation for security and rule of law in the 2018/2019 draft budget, the Lofa County lawmaker said the government’s Pro-poor agenda, which has already been italicized in the draft fiscal budget, should also prioritize security, “because it creates an enabling environment for people to co-exist and conduct themselves to bring happiness and productivity.”

He suggested that prioritizing infrastructure, which carries the biggest chunk in the draft budget, should also consider the development of security installations across the country.

“The military needs to be strategically placed in our boarder areas… and those infrastructure lie in ruins as we speak, so many of these facilities have to be revived to be able to strategically place our men in areas that they will contribute, not only for physical security, but (they) become a service for good,” he said.

“So that our military can be involve with agriculture work, civil work including construction of the roads and bridges.”

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