Some Tips for the Sierra Leone Police

10 July 2006 at 08:41 | 517 views

"I have said this before. Give me 50 police motorcycles and 20 cars for starters, and legislation to arm the police in doing their work and in one year’s time it will all pay for itself."

By Alieu Iscandari

On my numerous trips to sierra leone I have had the opportunity of befriending many police officers and have asked quite a few questions of them. The following is my take on their conditions of service.

I found out that a sergeant with over 20 years of service, has a take home pay of about 99, 000.00 leones which is about the equivalent of about $33.00 per month. I wonder how could someone exist on $33.00 per month in salary. I also found out that they are forced to work seven days a week and sometimes 12 hours a day or more. I spoke to sergeant Turay a very hardworking police officer who was always on his beat at the Lumely Police junction controlling traffic very effectively, I must say.

I have spent some time watching his usual polite and tactfull way of dealing with errant taxi and poda poda drivers. I watched him arrest a man almost twice his size and march him to the Lumley police station and I was amazed at the amount of strength both in physique and spirit that so belies his stature.

Is there a way, I wonder, by which the conditions of service of such a hard working and dedicated man could be improved? I have come up with a way that could be done.

My suggestion is that there be enacted a Sierra Leone vehicle code and that control of motor vehicles be placed under the control of a Sierra Leone department of motor vehicles which would be responsible for the licensing of all vehicles and enforcement of all traffic laws for all vehicles plying the routes in sierra leone.

I also suggest the creation of traffic courts throughout the western area for starters and the levying of fines against drivers who are in violation of the traffic rules.

For example, drivers particularly those operating commercial vehicles (Taxis and Poda Poda’s) are in the habit of stopping in the middle of the road regardless of and oblivious to the traffic jams created, just to pick up a fare. This should be a traffic infraction called "Impeding the smooth flow of traffic"

A reasonable fine for such an infraction should be about Le.50,000.00 I can almost guarantee you that after a few such fines brought about by the vigilance of officers like Sergeant Turay, very few drivers would be willing to incur another fine or breach the law in that manner.

This is how the process should work: a police officer on a motorcycle or police vehicle approaches the vehicle, asks the driver for their driver’s license which should be produced on demand, and the vehicle insurance policy which should similarly be produced on demand.

The police officer then writes a ticket citing the appropriate statute, gives a court date which should be no less than two weeks away for an arraignment in traffic court. The offending driver then makes an appearance in court and either pleads Guilty, Not Guilty or no contest to the charges proffered. If the driver pleads guilty, then the fine is levied and appurtenant fines such as:

1. an administration of justice fine of no less that Le. 20, 000.00
2. an indigent defense fund fine of no less than Le. 10,000.00,is then added to the base statutory fine.

If the driver is unable to pay the fines, then a payment plan to a central agency will be made and a failure to follow a court ordered payment plan will subject the offending driver to further fines including incarceration plus said fines.

If a driver pleads indigent, then that driver will have to be sent to a work an alternative program where they will have to spend at least 8 hours a day for a specified number of days cleaning the beaches and the city under the watchful eyes of assigned police officers.

If a driver pleads not guilty, then a court date will be set for trial and the ticketing officer will be subpoenaned for trial. If the defendant loses the case, the added to the fines as enumerated above that defendant will now be liable for one day’s pay at a specified rate to the courts for the police officer’s testimony. This should encourage the guilty to plead sooner.

How would this help the conditions of service of the police you may ask. Every Police officer will be judged by the tickets that they give when it comes time for promotion and salary increases, which should be frequent.

A police officer who is doing his job right and on the traffic detail will write many tickets. Of course there will be police officers who will want to take a bribe in lieu of writing tickets and thats where internal affaires comes in who would create sting operations and laws which would put police officers on the traffic detail, in jail for a long time for taking bribes.

Furthermore, every police officer who pulls over a vehicle for violation of traffic laws must "radio" such a pull over to a central station where such an interaction is recorded such that that officer will have to then explain why a vehicle was pulled over and for what purpose. Every officer who fails to make such a call to a base station shall be disciplined upon the conclusion of an internal investigation, which may include suspension without pay and termination from the force.

I have said this before. Give me 50 police motorcycles and 20 cars for starters, and legislation to arm the police in doing their work and in one year’s time it will all pay for itself.

All vehicles without insurance will be cited and any such citations will be recorded on the owner of the vehicle as well as the driver of the vehicle. If a vehicle is cited for lack of insurance and upon the setting of a court date that owner fails to produce an insurance policy, said vehicle must be impounded until an insurance policy is produced.

If a vehicle is impounded by the police, that vehicle shall incur storage charges payable to a police impound account for everyday that vehicle is in police storage. Any vehicle in police storage for a period in excess of thirty days will be sold at a public auction to recover the cost of storage.

And you say we cannot straighten our Sa Lone? We just need the right people in place, and see what we would do. No, I am not looking for a job at least not with this administration which would do all it can to frustrate my efforts.

My next issue would be on the abuse of Judicial power and the failure of the so- called "Legal One" who is the police liaison to properly and effectively address it in the matter of Victor Cole and some nondescr1pt magistrate who ordered the arrest of Mr. Cole because he dared to tell her that she cannot park her vehicle and block traffic. Look out for that.


Photo: Alieu Iscandari