RAL Solidifies Community, Police, Magistrates Relationship – Holds Forum On Collaboration

Community members, magistrates and law enforcement officers in Kakata, Margibi County have solidified by relationship in fighting crimes and reducing overcrowdiness at prison facilities in the County.

Police withholding cells and prison facilities across the country are overcrowded due to community members and law enforcement officers not working together to settle minor offenses that should be settled at the community level.

Overcrowding of prison means the number of prisoners exceeds the official prison capacity. This results from the fact that the justice system is sending more people to prison, and for longer periods, than the prison capacity allows.  It is now clear that the immediate cause of overcrowding is either overuse of imprisonment or insufficient prison capacity.

As part of efforts in reducing pre-trial detention and overcrowdiness, Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL), a local human rights organization in Liberia held a one-day community policing forum for residents and law enforcement officers in Kakata, Margibi County. The organization is currently implementing a project called ‘Community Policing Initiative, A Prisoner’s Rights and Police Reform in collaboration with the Liberia National Police (LNP) aim at uniting community, police and judges with a pledge: “my police, my respect, my support; while Police Officers are saying: my community, my police, my employers, my strength.

The forum provided the community residents the opportunity to discuss with the police and the magistrate in the working of the criminal justice system.

Speaking on the role of the police in protecting life and properties, the Deputy Police Commander for Margibi County, Abraham S. Gborie rallied community members to see themselves as employers of police and other law enforcement officers in the country.

Gborie reminded the community members that police officers are to only perform their tasks and not to witch-hunt anyone. According to him, police officers cannot be everywhere, but they depend on the community members to make their community safe.

He said community members need to work together with the police to reduce people going to jail for minor offenses which can easily be settled at the community level.

For her part, the Stipendiary Magistrate at the Kakata Magisterial Court, Victoria Worlobah Duncan who also served as facilitator said to reduce pre-trial detention and overcrowdiness of prison, prisoners who have been sentenced to more than ten years should be transferred to the Zwedru Correction Palace in Grand Gedeh County.

She also called on community members to respect their leaders because they are the first line of authority in settling cases, something she said will reduce overcrowdiness as well. Madam Duncan promised to work with community members in making those communities peaceful.

The exuberance citizens at the forum commended RAL for such forum and promised to work with those justice actors in making their community crime free.

At the same time, the Program Coordinator of RAL, Sam Nimely encouraged the participants to practice what they learned from the forum and work with the police and the court in making their community and country conducive for all.

Nimely has pledged the unflinching supports of his organization in ensuring the community, police and judges have harmonious relationship in the interest of the country. The forum is in ten of the 15 counties of Liberia and hope to extent to the rest.

More than 50 participants attended the forum at the Kakata YMCA training center, in Kakata, Margibi County. They include community members, students, market women, correction officers, police officers CSOs among others.

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