From the Editor’s Keyboard

Police have a duty not to allow lawlessness

10 September 2017 at 05:33 | 1991 views

By Titus Boye-Thompson, Guest Writer, Freetown.

Recent events have sent shock waves across most communities and instilled a fear of violence waiting to be unleashed in the coming period of heightened political activities and campaigning.

It is clear that young people have always been the main agents used to propagate violence when political campaigns are in full gear but the increasing tensions that now accompany sports events is a very worrying trend. The inter-secondary school sports meet, an event eagerly awaited when some of us were younger, had to be banned completely when a school sport event turned nasty, resulting in school children going on the rampage in the streets of Freetown.

Some observers frown at Police action following such events, especially when they move to impose authority in handling such events as heavy handed. However, when you consider the damage that such riotous conduct imposes on peaceful citizens, it is evident that the rights of the few, especially when the enjoyment of such rights become an unnerving experience for the rest of society must be curtailed whenever necessary.

The commotion at Mountain Cut resulted from a planned float that had secured Police clearance well before the ban on jogging. The event was postponed because it clashed with the month of Ramadan. When it was rescheduled, it came at a time that the restrictions had been put in place but nevertheless, the organizers acted on the initial approvals secured from the Police. There is no blame to be attached to the normal routing of a float parade celebrating victory in sports but when rivalries which had existed for such a long time are to be used as an excuse to destabilize the good order of society, then such acts become wholly unacceptable and firm Police action becomes a necessary intervention to maintain law and order on the streets.

Some argue that the recent restriction imposed on jogging by large crowds was an unreasonable action taken by the Police. Many refused to consider that the Police did not actually ban the exercise of jogging but stipulated a restriction on the activity by large groups not to take place without prior authorization from the Police. This is a necessary restriction that came as a result of several complaints by members of the public that these groups of joggers had the habit of attacking peaceful citizens and stealing their property from them as they go about their normal business. Naturally, such provocation is unacceptable in civilized society and thus the Police is well in place to impose such a restriction in order to forestall such nefarious acts.

Finally, the security sector reform framework has established clear responsibility to the Sierra Leone Police to protect life and property and to maintain an environment of law and order. The increasing belligerency in youth culture is not distanced from the fact that these young people are the product of a very brutal past where child soldiers roamed the streets causing havoc and rampage. The firm stand of the Police in establishing sound monitoring of volatile events and activities is well in place to provide for the safety of the many. The Inspector General of Police maintains that the primary responsibility for the use of reasonable force by the Police always rests with the senior Commanders on the ground who have tactical understanding and a better assessment of the unravelling situation. When a crowd activity turns violent, the firing of teargas to disperse such dangerous people is a measure of reasonable but necessary force to protect lives and property of ordinary citizens.

This is also true when an edict to restrict the gathering of large crowds on the pretext of jogging for exercise but rather degenerates to attacking ordinary citizens and stealing their bags and property is unacceptable. It is interesting to note that the guarantor of the event, Mr Sanusi “Bruski” Bangura on whose application the Police had issued a clearance for the float confirmed that the event itself had ended and it went on peacefully without any incident. A leading football stakeholder who is also vying for the position of SLFA President, Sanusi Bangura is keen to point out that his main mission is to re-energize young people to support local sports especially football and for that energy for football to be translated to a revitalized Premier league in the country. His dismay at the unleashing of violence after the event that he had sponsored is viewed by him as likely to have been stoked by his opponents and detractors.