IG Legitimises Police Brutality

In a shock display of poor leadership and grasp of the situation at hand, recent utterances by police Inspector General (IG) Ambrose M. Sovula encouraging officers to forcefully protect themselves against civilians not only legitimise but incite police brutality against vulnerable civilians.

His words have been condemned by a broad spectrum of people from in and out of the country.

In a sloppily recorded video making the rounds on social media, IG Sovula can be seen instructing heavily armed police personnel to go out on streets of the country and bring what he referred to as peace, by way of defending themselves against civilians.

Forum would like to ask, are the people of Sierra Leone threats to the Sierra Leone Police (SLP)? Of course not!

But in the words of the IG; “Where the rights of citizens stop, that is where the responsibilities of other people, the police, starts”, he said. 

Sovula added that civilians violate the rights of the police, who “are human beings; they are people and have their own rights, which must be observed and fully respected”. Because they chose to be police officers, he said, does not make them slaves, but are human beings like civilians and could have as well been politicians or teachers, stating which he ordered his trigger-happy heavily-armed men to take over the streets of Freetown. I want personnel to be fully deployed all over. I mean all over; I have no regret, he said.    

Suffice to say that was completely unprofessional and unacceptable, something that shouldn’t have in the first place been uttered by the first gentleman of the national police force.

But can we expect professionalism from an unschooled person to provide professional training and the right leadership for a national force such as the SLP, when IG Sovula himself lacks what is takes to head the force?

That was where we messed it all up as a nation so there is no need for wolf crying over spilled milk. It is what it is, and you can hardly trickle down what is not up there. 

The roles of the police, as wrongly stated in that video by IG Sovula, are not what the police are being paid for out of taxpayers’ money. Sovula should therefore publicly withdraw his statement and apologise to the nation for inciting and legitimising police brutality against the people of Sierra Leone, on the pretext of alertness to respond to resistance from commercial motorbike riders.

We challenge the IGP to come out with evidence and tell the world where he has ever seen the leadership of any country’s police using such language, calling on the police force to act against the people. Nowhere on earth, except in Sierra Leone, where under the failed policing management and administration under IG Sovula – working to protect his job and impress those that appointed him – untrained recruits are unleashed on and kill vulnerable civilians in the guise of keeping the peace.

IG Sovula, you subscribed to an oath to save lives and property, not to destroy, incite or legitimise brutality against defenceless people, as you and your personnel are now bent on the exact opposite of what you vowed to do few decades ago when you joined the force.

As you erroneously mentioned in your widely criticised hate video, instructing police personnel to deploy all over, no police leadership has ever made such a high tension oriented statement before. This should not come from you anymore as head of our police force, as we expect more responsible statements from you in future.

For heaven’s sake, why should your inability to regulate the conduct of commercial motorbike riders warrant such warlike remarks from you, the head of a whole national police force? Mind you, IG, you could in the future be held accountable for the unprofessional conduct and highhandedness of your personnel, based on our continuing call to end all forms of impunity against the public and vulnerable people. We are taking stocks of the works of the SLP under your watch.

Okada/commercial motorbike riders’ mess are being condoned by the very police through extortions. They are only violently trying to halt the boys now with their arrogance for reasons that could be hardly understood, while police personnel themselves form a large portion of commercial motorbike riders and ownership.

Police pushing to prevent okada riders from entering the Central Business District of the city, is biased as they don’t stop police-okada riders, who they selectively protect from the law, leading the entire operation to be stiffly resisted by traditional okada riders, and resulted to street battles between the police and okada riders across the city.

What a poor display of community policing management! Is the IG aware of this?

Since he became head of the police force, IG Sovula’s work started on an ugly footing by making sour civil-police relationship, when compared to what used to be solid ties nursed that were by his predecessors, including veteran London Metropolitan expert IG Keith Biddle and communities. Biddle reformed the SLP by establishing firm connections with people, through the introduction and full implementation of community policing, which is now lacking between communities and the police force.

Mr Biddle’s rebranding of the SLP earned the force the moniker, ‘A Force for Good’.

May the gentle soul of the legacy of that fine and professional police personality continue to rest in perfect peace as we sadly miss and continue to mourn his legacies currently being destroyed by one of his incompetent successors due to partisan political loyalty to the orders of the day.   

Former SLP IG Biddle inherited the worst police ever in Sierra Leone, with post-war challenges, and was left with little or no option but to consolidate ties with ex-combatants of the Revolutionary United Front, Armed Forces Revolutionary Council and the much ethnically divided civil defence forces. His professional policing leadership worked with the different factions, and he never pushed the police to wage a war against innocent and armless civilians, as compared to IG Sovula.

After Biddle, came IG Brima Acha Kamara who did some very good professional, peaceful and democratic policing; as well as Francis A. Munu who also did his best by upholding the highest level of professionalism in the management of post conflict policing in Sierra Leone.

They were not warmongering police leaders. We thank them for their national loyalty, diligence and dedicated service to the people of Sierra Leone. You were all gems to Sierra Leone and you duly deserved your salaries from our tax payers’ monies. Thumbs up to you for your professionalism; and we stoutly salute the fine police brass. 

Forum has, in the last three years, observed policing under the leadership of IG Sovula as being unprofessional, lacking in handling minor conflicts mitigations and management, peace and undemocratic policing, and is rather the herald of a police state in the country.

Sadly, all of IG Sovula’s actions are done to please and satisfy his paymaster, President Julius Maada Bio and his ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), PAOPA clan members and supporters as if they are the only Sierra Leoneans the police should serve, deliberately forgetting the guiding principles of democratic policing. His actions have cumulated into the present tension the country is now faced with. 

The fact that the police leadership under IG Sovula continue with its unnecessary harassment of people, politically motivated intimidations, arbitrary arrests and detentions of political opponents, especially members and followers of the main opposition All People’s Congress on orders from above, does not in any way speak peace, national unity and democratic consolidation, but complete instability by police officers under Sovula.

The police should be mindful of the fact that what is done to person/party ‘A’ for committing a crime, must as well be equally done to person/party ‘B’, as required by fair, balanced and clear practice of democratic and professional policing. They should not practice selective justice, which goes to the highest bidder. Justice is to be decided in court. 

The situation your police officers are currently confronted with stems from your repeated failure to do the needful; as you instead keep fermenting tension in the country through the presence of unnecessary and heavily armed police personnel deployed across the city. That, sir, does not represent peace.

Consider the magnitude of the damages being caused by your personnel; the police are accused of taking the huge loss of civilian lives in different locations of the country under the leadership of IG Sovula, which clearly implies management failure under the Police Chief. They continue to further ferment instability under your watch.

Frankly speaking, IG Ambrose Michael Sovula, your legacy as the Inspector General of the Sierra Leone Police will be remembered for ordering the following; the forceful invasion of the Well of parliament by armed police personnel who harassed and physically molested legitimately elected Members of Parliament; attack on the APC National Secretariat at No. 11 Old Railway Line, in Freetown; the killing of a youth in Tonkilili; the killing of the boy during the Tonko Limba bye-election; the cold blooded murder of civilians during the Lunsar riots; the Tombo killings in the Western Rural District; the Makeni riot; and above all, the shooting and killing of over 30 prisoners at the central prison on Pademba Road, Freetown.

Also forming part of the havoc perpetuated by the police under Sovula’s watch are the continuous extortion of money from commercial bike riders, drivers and other road users everywhere in the country, to a point that motorists are always obliged and forced by the police to pay up or be delayed and worse taken to the station. Worse still are rampant payments for bail at police stations, fully aware that bail is free.

A classic example is the recent payment of Le 150,000 by an alleged assault suspect to one police Sgt. Koroma A.K. with force Number 15063 at the Kissy Divisional Headquarters, east of Freetown. He has been called by authorities at Police Headquarters for further investigations. We are also waiting for the outcome of his disciplinary measures supposed to be taken against the extortionist police officer. 

All of the above were and continue to be done with impunity, yet IG Sovula with his recent award from President Bio, keeps referring to the police under his failed leadership as professionals.

Mr IG, we stand waiting to hear and read your loud and humble apologies to the people of Sierra Leone at home and abroad, for legitimising and inciting police brutality against them.

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