The Independent Police Complaints Board (IPCB), with funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Friday 10th December, 2021 held a one-day Media Facilitation Event for members of the media and civil society activists at the IPCB Head office at New England Ville, Freetown.
The yearly event is part of the Public Awareness-Raising and Sensitization Campaign which serves as a platform for the IPCB to not only inform participants of the activities undertaken, successes, challenges and plans for the coming year, but also provides the enabling environment for the agency to interact with participants and build stakeholders’ relationship which would enhance the spread of accurate information to the public about the Board.
Chairing the programme, Mr. Haroun Sheriff, Communications Coordinator of the Justice Sector Coordination Office (JSCO) applauded the government of Sierra Leone for the continued strides in the democratization process in the Sierra Leone Police (SLP). He said since its establishment, the IPCB has made tremendous gains in achieving its mandate in the midst of minimum available resources.
Mr. Sheriff furthered that the IPCB was established on the platform to hold personnel of the SLP accountable for their actions. “…And to hold the police accountable, the IPCB needs to also be accountable to the public. Thus, the reason why the media and civil society representatives were invited to be appraised of the successes and challenges of the IPCB”, he stressed. He encouraged the participants to listen and ask any relevant questions or seek clarification where necessary.
The Chairman of the IPCB, Mr. Richard Shealton Freeman said that the institution at its formative stage concluded that it needed to review its Regulations of 2013 so as to make it more responsive to the needs and expectations of the public. “…The current Regulations is a constitutional instrument and not an Act of Parliament, which only stipulates that the institution should receive and investigate complaints from the public against members of the Sierra Leone Police; and stops at making recommendation”, he disclosed. Mr. Freeman told the gathering that the Board was undertaking the reforms because of the limitation imposed on “our operations stifling the agency’s effectiveness and efficiency”.
The Chairman said with financial support from the UNDP in 2019 and 2021, the institution embarked on Regional consultative engagements during which stakeholders were consulted on the intention of the IPCB to review its Regulations, 2013. He said the participants overwhelmingly supported the ongoing reform process.
He said a Technical Working Group (TWG), including the Police Council, Amnesty International, Human Rights Commission, Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Law Officers Department, Law Reform Commission was set up in 2019 to review the IPCB Regulations and Acts of other African oversight mechanisms; and proffer its recommendations to the Board. Mr. Freeman added that the TWG has submitted its Report proposing the transformation of the IPCB to the Independent Policing Oversight Commission (IPOC).
The Board Chairman concluded that the proposed IPOC Act would among other things take into consideration the implementation of its own recommendations that the IPCB Regulations 2013 did not capture.
The Programme and Communications Officer of the IPCB, Mr. Amadu Femoh Sesay, informed the audience of activities undertaken, including outreaches, trainings, complaints intake and investigation concluded by the Board in 2021.
Expressing gratitude to the UNDP for its continued support to the IPCB, he informed the gathering that under the UNDP project – Improving the Rule of Law, Security and Human Rights and Social Cohesion in Sierra Leone, the IPCB trained 644 participants, including police officers on the Guidelines on the Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa (otherwise known as the Luanda Guidelines).
Mr. Sesay said complaints management forms a critical component of the work of the Board, adding that in 2021 the IPCB recorded 41 cases, 30 were assessed and placed for investigation, while 11 cases were waiting to be reviewed by the Complaints Handling Committee. The Programme and Communications Officer said in 2021, the Board concluded 33 cases, including cases from the previous year.
The Communications Officer disclosed that the IPCB has concluded an investigation into the incident of 13th April, 2021 between the SLP and some students of the Institute of Public Administration and management (IPAM), furthering that the Report has been sent to the authorities concerned – the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Court of the University of Sierra Leone, Tertiary Education Commission and Inspector General of Police, etc. He spoke on the findings and recommendations of the matter.
The event was climaxed by a question-and-answer session from journalists and civil society activists and responses from the IPCB.