Police-Community Relationship: A Solid Approach In The Fight Against Crime
Disclaimer: This article is not the official position or perspective of the Liberia National Police, therefore I take personal responsibility.
The fight against crime should be on the foundation of togetherness between the police and the community, that is why it is important for the police and the community to establish a solid relationship.
In my mind, Police-Community relationship is a relationship that brings about the spirit of oneness between the police and the community, thus promoting cordiality, cohesiveness and coordination in the fight against crime. A solid Police-Community relationship will give rise to stronger trust and confidence within the police, and minimize crime and civil disorder in the society.
Community-Policing started in the 1960s when the police decided to become involved more in the local communities in order to deter and reduce criminal activity. The 1960s saw its fair share of urban riots and gang activity. As a result of that, the police developed an increased presence in the community using police-community relationship approach in the fight against crime and civil disorder (study.com). Despite the introduction of Community-Policing partnership as far back as the 1960s, some community dwellers still believe that the relationship between the police and the community is still fragile. Therefore a most cemented approach is needed in strengthening the police-community relationship.
When there is a fragile relationship between the police and the community, the likelihood for criminal activities and civil disorders to increase is obvious. For example, in Liberia, after the civil unrest there was mistrust and lack of confidence about the police owing to its unfriendly and uncivil approach to the public, that gave rise to mob violence, criminality, civil disturbance, and non-compliance posture. As a result of that, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) through its civil police department decided to embark on a robust community policing outreach throughout the country aim at rebranding the Liberia National Police, while regaining public trust. A solid police-community relationship can be of great help to an ongoing criminal investigation, someone might ask how? There is a criminal investigation method we used in gathering information when a crime is committed, and it is called community or neighborhood canvassing. Community or neighborhood canvassing is an initiation of door to door contact with the people in obtaining information as to what they saw or heard before, during and after the commission of crime. Community or neighborhood canvassing is an effective method used to assist criminal investigators uncover facts from the scene of a crime or incident. Meanwhile, this method may be effective and useful when there exist a solid police-community relationship that encourages respect, trust, humility and dignity between the police and the community. Practical experiences have shown that community policing can restore calm and sanity in the face of intense situations (protests, riots, and civil disturbance).For examples, in 2019 citizens of Bomi and Grand cape mount grouped themselves and begin to protest on grounds that the Sime Darby palm oil company had taken their land, thus denying them of their just incentives. They attacked the company’s facility and some staffs.The Inspector General of Police, Hon. Patrick T. Sudue having been informed of constant protests in that part of the country decided to engage in a vigorous community policing approach, where he headed a team of senior police officers to Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties to meet with the community dwellers in finding a way to solve the problem. During the course of the meeting, the community dwellers were encouraged to put forth their problems so as to find a peaceful solution. That meeting ended successfully, community dwellers abandoned their protest’s actions and had lunched and participated in open discussion with police officers. There was similar situation in Grand Cape Mount/Kinjor in 2019 at a company Called Bea Mountain. The Inspector General of Police used his community policing skill to restore law and order at the company. Another example of community policing approach returning calm and civil order was in the Township of Caldwell in December of 2018 when community dwellers have previously engaged in rioting in demand of electricity and started the second protest, the Inspector of police accompanied the ACP.Samuel Ford, Chief of Community Service of the Liberia National Police immediately proceeded to the Township of Caldwell, where they met the community dwellers standing on the main road, thus impeding the free flow of human and vehicular traffic. The Inspector General again used the community policing approach by greeting the protesters and saying that he understood their plight, but was equally concerned about their safety. He pleaded with them to go with him on the La-joy field so they could have better discussion. They agreed, so he provided a bus to transport them on the field for peaceful engagement. That approach yielded result on grounds the protesters abandoned their acts. An interactive Police-community Town hall meeting that was held on 6th July, 2019 in the Township of Kingsville brought an immediate halt to the series of protests that were gradually taking over the Township. Today, the Township’s leadership along with the youth’s leader are working closely with the police in maintaining civil obedience. Police-community relationship should not only be the traditional approach, a situation in which the police will call the community leadership or the community leadership will call the police to a meeting in seeking a peaceful resolution or mitigation. It is also important to acknowledge the fact the leadership of the Community Watch Forum (CWF) has over the years worked closely with the Liberia National Police (LNP) in ensuring a stronger police-community relationship. Frankly, although this approach is useful, but a more proactive approach is needed. The police-community relationship I have envisioned is to see the police and community working in hand -hand in seeking solution to the community dwellers problems. I have always had the thought that a solid police-community relationship or partnership requires constant engagement, collaboration and coordination. It is equally important for police officers to remember this famous community policing quotation by Sir, Robert Peel that states” The police are the public and the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence”. So you see every citizen should be in the interests of the community welfare and existence. Someone might ask, how do we do that? When you see someone that is suspected of being a bad guy or thief, call the police quickly. The local police in the community should reach out to the community people and exchange numbers in maintaining the solid relationship. A solid police-community relationship will cost the police department to spend less amount in the fight against crime.
Having realized some of the challenges that lead to the fragility of police-community relationship, I am pleased to make the following recommendations;
- The hosting of a national Police-Community partnership annual retreat.
- Quarterly Police-Community clean-up campaign to be climaxed with sporting activities.
- Budgetary support to the LNP for the implementation of its community policing initiatives.
Finally, police officers are servicemen and women, and by that our services to the community should be an unending undertaking.
Written by: Monroe A. Dennis ll, BPA, PG.DPA, C.CJA
Criminal Investigator At Liberia National Police