By: Zazay Kolubah
Often times when there is misunderstanding between civilian personnel and security officers, the matter usually falls back into the purview of the security (whose officer is a party to the conflict) to investigate the matter.
For example, if a complaint against a Liberia National Police (LNP) officer is filed, the Professional Standards Department (PSD) of the police looks into the matter and recommends action.
The million dollar question remains: How transparent, credible and independent the investigation will be without casting dark clouds on the investigation processes.
Now that the Board is set up, members of the public have the option to either complain to the Professional Standard Department of the LNP or the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) constituted by the Liberian Government under the supervision of the Justice Ministry.
The Board will review and process complaints between the public and officers of the Liberia National Police and the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) as a way of solving such disputes.
The creation and mixed composition of the Board are requirements of both Acts of the LNP and LIS, making the complaint Board’s decision binding on all parties.
It must be noted that the name of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) is now changed to the Liberia Immigration Service to give the Immigration force some civilian oversight and more service oriented functions.
The review Board will also determine complaints, promulgate rules of procedure of complaints and employ alternative dispute resolution on minor grievances.
“This is another positive move by the government in reforming its national security sector”, Deputy Justice Minister for Administration and Public Safety Cllr. Wheatonia Dixon-Barnes asserted at a recent meeting.
The President of the National Bar Association, Cllr. Moses Paigar will head the Board along with a team of professionals with wealth of experiences drown from a broad spectrum of the Liberian society to steer the affairs of the Board for three years.
At the January 09, 2017 meeting, attendees challenged the CCRB to work with passion and commitment of service to the nation.
Justice Minister Frederick Cherue chaired that meeting and extended compliments on behalf of the Liberian Leader, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, cautioning that the rule-of-law must never be compromised.
Minister Cherue further emphasized - “There will be regular review of performance consistent with the LNP/LIS Acts”.
Until the civilian complaints authority is established for all security agencies, the establishment of the current Civilian Complaint Review Board will remain in force as provided for in the two (LNP and LIS) Acts which come into force a month after the Body officially takes office.
Members appointed to the Board are expected to be inducted into office shortly by the President. After induction, County and District Civilian Complaints Review Committees will be set up to receive complaints and perform functions determined by the CCRB.
Meanwhile, UNMIL Deputy SRSG Waldemar Vrey has commended the Liberian Government on this development, stressing that this will enhance accountability and public confidence in special investigations between security officers and the public.
Cllr. Paigar thanked the Government and people of Liberia for the confidence reposed in him and fellow team members - adding, integrity and professionalism will go into full practice.
Internal Affairs Minister Dr. Henrique Tokpa, Assistant Justice Ministry for Administration, Frederick Gbemie, the Program Manager of the Joint Justice and Security Program, Joyce Frankfort, Anthony Williams of the Federation of Liberian Youth(FLY) amongst others were at the Ministry of Justice roundtable discussion.
The Review Board’s membership include the National Bar Association as chair, the Ministries of Justice, and Internal Affairs, the Federation of Liberian Youth, the National Civil Society Council and the Liberia National Law Enforcement Association.
According to article 22.85b of the new LNP Act, as also stated in the LIS Act, the president of the Liberia Bar Association, or his or her representative not below the status of member of the Executive Council shall act as Chair of the Board while representatives of the Ministries of Justice and Internal Affairs shall not be below the rank of Deputy Minister.
The rank of the Independent National Human Rights Commission representative shall not be below the status of Deputy Chairperson, while FLY’s representative along with the National Civil Society Council must come from their respective Executive Councils.
Only former police officers may serve the Board on behalf of the Liberia National Law Enforcement Association (LiNEA).
Similar to the LIS Act, the July 12, 2016 new LNP Act allows the public to file complaints against a police officer or the Liberia National Police to the Professional Standards Department of the LNP or the Review Board regarding misconduct. In the event the matter reaches the Professional Standard Department, the CCRB shall immediately be notified and copy of complaint forwarded to the Board before proceeding to investigate.
On the other hand, upon receiving a complaint, the Board shall immediately refer it to the Professional Standard Department and the report and recommendation thereof submitted to the Inspector General of Police within three months for review and action, unless an extension of time is granted by the Board.
Complaints against the Inspector General of Police and his Deputy must be filed with the Justice Minister.