As many Liberians listened to radio or read the dailies heralding the new appointments in the President’s Government, many governmental institutions were affected by the shake up. Truth be told, since the inception of Johnson-Sirleaf regime many Liberians had expected so much from public officials to include the President herself, who from many indications expressed her unreserved desire to leave an enviable legacy for the younger generation to remember and follow.
As the Presidential proclamation regarding the shakeup indicated, one of such institutions mentioned was the Liberia National Police, the country’s premier security house. As a security expert with specialized training in early warning signals, I especially keyed in to the appointment of a new Police Chief replacing veteran security expert Hon. C. Clarence Massaquoi. Readings from my own feed-in from the hub of my interest signaled massive jubilations on the ground floor of the Police Headquarters - not because of the fact that the President was relieving Col. Massaquoi of his post as a long time serving Director of Police, but basically for the audacity of Madam President to appoint an individual many officers consider as one of their kind, an insider who rose diligently through the rank and file of the LNP.
For many young enterprising police officers, the president’s decision not only signaled a reawakening of the old order of meritocracy, but also a new day for young officers determined to provide leadership in a highly organized system.
Gregory Coleman Steps in
Fresh from graduate studies at the prestigious J. F. Kennedy School of Governance at Harvard University, Hon. Gregory O.W. Coleman might not have expected so soon the benefits of toil and labor to bear fruits. But as providence would have it, President Sirleaf in her September 16, 2017 afternoon nationwide address singled out Col. Coleman as the first Inspector General of the Liberia National Police in line with the New Police Act of 2015. The Presidential proclamation also made police veteran Abe Kromah Deputy Inspector General of Police for Operations, a position he was relieved of under Col. Massaquoi. Like Coleman, Kromah is American trained and understands the intricacies of modern policing in a post conflict environment like Liberia.
Knowing the youthfulness of the new LNP leadership the President challenged the appointees to always demonstrate professionalism, loyalty to country, and dedication to duty as they perform their responsibilities at the LNP.
Coleman and team hit the ground running by conducting an overall assessment of the LNP. The assessment showed that the LNP was at its lowest ebb in terms of public confidence, staff morale, budgetary allotment and logistical support to provide premium security to the Liberian populace. Most appalling was the condition of the main complex of the National Police Headquarters on Capitol Hill.
Despite the human and infrastructural deficits, Coleman fully understood that the effectiveness of a fully functional police force depended on the officers once they understood and appreciated a sense of belonging as law enforcers in a post war country where society had lost confidence in the ability of the security forces to serve as guardians of law and order.
Consequently, in a major interaction with his men and women in blue, Col. Coleman informed them of the need to live above reproach in the performance of their duty as police officers.
“I am a representation of the change you have long been wishing for, because I know what you are going through; the hardship you face in supporting your families, and the logistics to have you perform your duties as police officers,” the Inspector General told his men.
“We may not be able to meet all of your needs as officers, but that which we can solicit from the government we will do to make you feel happy and motivated to perform,” he added.
To cushion his words of support, Col. Coleman immediately provided two buses to address the transport needs of junior officers who had to stand long hours awaiting public transportation just to get to work.
As enshrined in a special message to the Liberian Senate during his confirmation hearing, the Coleman administration has made the presence of police officers felt in major communities around the capital with the provision of more new police high tech vehicles patrolling 24/7, thus drastically reducing the wave of crimes in densely populated urban communities, even though challenges still abound in curtailing crimes especially in the leeward parts of the country.
Coleman has not only focused on fighting crimes but is now hell bent on rebranding the image of the LNP from a bad apple force to one that is out to seek the welfare of communities. The new administration’s community policing initiative has helped to narrow the gap between the public and the police. The vibrancy of the Professional Studies Division of the Liberia National Police has shown that police officers are not above the law but accountable for their actions and inactions. This has even given more confidence to the public to complain officers who come in conflict with ordinary citizens.
The LNP HQ situated on Capitol Bye Pass is today more or less a tourist site due to the level of facelift the HQ has gotten since the incumbency of the Coleman administration. Once noted for disorderly parking of vehicle at the front or main entrance of the facility, the compound has become the admiration of all those who usually use the route leading to other public facilities on Capitol Hill. While the exterior of the building is being worked on, the interior of the LNP is being remodeled daily to create a more conducive working environment for officers working at the main headquarters of the LNP and visitors who normally troop into the building to attend various issues. Unlike before, visitors to the LNP HQ are now treated to a cozy waiting room on the ground floor equipped with cable television facilities that provide viewers access to international news, sports and entertainment channels. Although Internet connectivity has been down at nearly all of the offices, efforts are being exerted to reinstall the facilities to benefit all employees at the LNP HQ. Additionally, modern conference rooms and bath rooms have undergone renovation thus bringing a level of dignity to the workforce.
With all this improvements, Coleman believes that improvement in salary of police officers remains a top priority for his administration.
“We have met with government and there are plans underway to address the issue of your salaries and uniforms. The little we can do within my reach, we will, while we continue speaking to the government to do the bigger one,” he recently told his men.
For the short time that the he has served, I hold no illusion that Madam President made no mistake in giving the LNP a true leader who has the force and its personnel at heart. With the modicum of support that they receiving, yet they are performing beyond the call of duty, one wonders if they receive the fullest support from government and its international development partners what much the LNP can achieve in revamping the police beyond its prewar status. The recent sterling performance of the police at the just ended ECOWAS Summit is just a small evidence of what the LNP is capable of.