In an effort to bond forces in fighting crimes, and reduce pre-trial detention, community residents, police and other security officers and magistrates have unanimously agreed to concretize their relationship in protecting lives and properties.
As a way forward of their agreement, the community residents guaranteed to report crimes and work with the police and courts to use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) at the community level,settle minor offenses rather than going to the police stations or the court which will end up sending alleged perpetrators to prison causing congestion at those facilities.
Also, the community residents vowed to expose those involved in the sale of illicit substances in their respective communities. This, they said will help alleviate neighborhood crimes and make community members have peace and security.
In the interim, police officers and magistrates agreed to follow all measures that will assistand protect lives and properties and ensure speedy adjudication of cases by forwarding those involved to court.
The agreement was reached at a community policing forum organized by Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL) in Gbarnga, Bong County at the Gbarnga Security Regional Hub.
The community policing forum was a continuation of Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL) activities gear toward enabling citizens understand the working of the criminal justice system in the country, and enhance human rights, rule of law, peace and democracy building.
The interactive forum brought together 60 participants. The participants include traditional women, students, magistrates, judges, Correction Officers, police officers and community leaders among others.
The forum is part of the ‘Community Policing Initiative, A Prisoner’s Rights and Police Reform project by Rescue Alternatives Liberia in collaboration with the Liberia National Police (LNP) with community members saying: “my police, my respect, my support; while Police Officers said: my community, my police, my employers, my strength.
Making an introductory statement, the Senior Program officer of RAL, Sam Nimely reminded the participants about the essence of security, particularly the relationships that must exist between the police and the community.
Nimely said RAL is interested in bringing community members and the police together in cementing common bonds to make communities free from crimes and ensure the safety of citizens and properties.
The RAL’s executive said gone are those days when citizens use to sit at their houses while others are suffering from tortures in the hands of criminals without intervention.
Nimely added that community members shouldn’t blame the police in rescuing someone alleged of crimes and other offenses.
“Please feel free to talk to the police on issues. Don’t take laws into your own hands. Work with the police as partners in fighting crimes and making the community save for everyone,” he said.
For his part, the General Shift Supervisor, PATR. S. Opea K. George at the Gbarnga Police Detail, who spoke as one of the facilitators on the “Role of the police in the protection of lives and property” appealed to the participants to assist the police in making their communities safe by reporting all crimes, perceived crimes and those involved in the sale of narcotic drugsamong others. According to him, criminal justice system begins with the community where complaint comes from as the police rely on information from the community.
Finally, he said community policing helps to build strong bonds, but it doesn’t mean things will automatically change overnight, but it gives chance to the citizens to have peace in the community and help reduce neighborhood crimes.
At the same time, the Magistrate at the Gbarnga City Court, George S. Wokpeh who spoke on the “role of the magisterial court in the reduction of pretrial detention” said in order to reduce pre-trial detention, magistrates should hold regular fast track hearing of cases; issue writ of summon instead of arrest to first hear cases; establish effective file management; dismiss cases for failure of complainants to appear in court; punish lawyers for unnecessary delay and encourage alternative dispute resolution (ADR) at the community level.
Magistrate Wokpeh called on his colleagues to exercise professionalism in the discharge of their duties.
At the end of the day-long training, the participants congratulated RAL for what they called ‘significance forum’ and promised to exercise what they have learned to their respective communities in working with the police in fighting crimes, and at the same time praise the National Endowment for Democracy for providing the funding to the RAL.