The Independent Police Complaints Board (IPCB), with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the on-going project of Strengthening the Rule of Law, Security and Human Rights in Sierra Leone in July and September, 2019 trained over 420 community residents on Civilian Oversight Mechanism for the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), targeting Senior Police Officers, Civil Society Activists, Human Rights Defenders, Paramount Chiefs, Journalists, and other civilian oversight bodies for the SLP in the 14 districts.
The objective of the training was not only to enlighten the participants on Police Oversight and Accountability Mechanism in Sierra Leone; Democratic Policing and Its Benefits to Society; and Use of Force and Firearms by Police Officers in Sierra Leone, but also an opportunity to enhance stakeholders’ relationship and further strengthen public awareness on the mandate and functions of the IPCB as an oversight agency for the Sierra Leone Police.
During sessions on the use of force and firearms, the Lead Facilitator and Communications Officer of IPCB, Amadu Femoh stated that “even though police officers have the legal mandate as provided for under Section 16 (2) of the 1991 Constitution and Section 4 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1965, they are guided by certain principles, that is Proportionality, Legality, Accountability, Necessity and Precaution”. He also emphasized the need for police officers to observe the above principles before using force and firearms.
Facilitators and Regional Outreach Officers in their respective Regions informed the gathering that Complaints Management is a critical component of the work of the Board. They disclosed that anyone above 18 years, including Paramount Chiefs, Members of Parliament, Councilors and Mammy Queens among others, who suffers from police excesses can lodge a complaint with the IPCB. The Facilitators stressed that complaints must be backed up with evidential materials and witnesses.
In Mattru Jong, Hon. Paramount Chief Alhaji Badara Sheriff of Jong Chiefdom thanked the IPCB for taking its activities to the doors of the people. On the challenges of the Board, Hon. Sheriff who represents the Bonthe District Council of Paramount Chiefs in the House of Parliament called on government to swiftly and sufficiently address IPCB’s challenges which are low staffing, lack of mobility and low budgetary GoSL support. He opined that “if the agency is adequately supported it would be in the capacity to deliver on its mandate of holding the police accountable for their excesses”. Hon. Sheriff promised to engage other members of the Internal Affairs Committee in the House of Parliament on the Board’s current standing.
In his closing courtesy, Hon. Paramount Chief Dhaffie Benya of Small Bo Chiefdom, Kenema District stated that he used to have some misconception about the functions of the IPCB but this training has enlightened him so much. Hon. Benya added that he was willing to cooperate with the Board to deliver on its mandate.
Commending the IPCB for this engagement, the Local Unit Commander of Pujehun Division, CSP Victor M. Williams said the training was not only an opportunity to strengthen the already existing relationship between the community and the police, but would also improve the knowledge base of his personnel thereby enabling them to do what is lawful.
A Civil Society Activist in Mattru Jong, Bonthe District, Joseph D. Silvalie also commended the IPCB for creating the platform on which civilians and the police can interface thereby discussing issues of concerns of all stakeholders. Mr. Silvalie called on the Board to continue with its awareness raising campaigns, noting that such engagements have the unlimited propensity to “bridge the divide between the community and the police”.
The questions posed by the beneficiaries revealed that many of them were not aware of the mandate/functions of the Board, and the principles on the use of force and firearms by police officers. The community residents singled out the unhealthy relationship existing between some local residents and the police due to alleged ‘heavy handedness’ during the discharge of the latter’s duties. They see IPCB as a means through which justice and fairness will hopefully prevail in matters involving them and the police.
The training sessions were facilitated by Amadu Femoh Sesay, Communications Officer and Lead Facilitator; Joseph Sesay, Regional Outreach Officer-North; Mustapha Musa, Regional Outreach Officer-South; and Vandy Bawoh, Regional Outreach Officer-East.
The trainings were conducted in the following locations and dates: