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Our police personnel were heavily involved in patrolling major areas in the Freetown municipality especially the grey areas following the restructuring of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP). Such security patrols were very effective as a result of the availability of adequate logistics which enhanced their operations. With the help of the police, groups of community volunteers were also formed across the capital city to complement the efforts of police when the spate of armed robbery threatened the peace and tranquility of residents. That strategy paid off when many alleged armed robbers and their accomplices were arrested including an Assistant Superintendent of Police who stood trial for allegedly providing armed robbers with arms and ammunition. But all the gains made by the SLP and the community volunteers have been reversed as the spate of armed robbery has become unbearable in the municipality.

Cases of armed robbery are on the rise in Freetown and hundreds of residents have suffered at the hands of armed robbers, including a senior journalist who armed robbers ransacked his residence at Regent Road, Wilberforce, stabbed him carted away expensive electronics worth millions of Leones. Recently, armed robbers also broke into Saluma Hall at Congo Water, Wellington, and took away several valuable musical instruments and other items. Community people pondered over the incident given that the hall is just a stone throw from the newly established police post at Congo Water. There are many other reports of armed robbery in Freetown which the police are investigating.

We are quite convinced that one of the main reasons for the spate of armed robbery in the municipality is that there are more lapses in security patrol than before. Not that the SLP lacks the man-power to patrol the capital city at night, but vehicles and other logistics necessary for the enhancement and effectiveness of their operations are woefully inadequate. And we suspect that trucks are normally used for police deployment while the small vehicles are used by a few selected senior police officers. In almost all the police stations personnel are constrained by the serious lack of vehicles to carry out their duties proactively.

We believe that the lawlessness among the youthful population can also motivate armed robbery. Many of the potential and suspected armed robbers are the youths who hang out at ghettoes and hideouts and prowl around at night. And in many cases when they are caught during police raids, only those without money to bail themselves would be dragged to the police station and vice versa. Even so, many are granted bail when they are charged to court because of connections.

Recruitment into the police of people with alleged criminal backgrounds could be partly responsible for the spate of armed robbery. There are hundreds of people in the police who were ghetto masters, pickpockets, party thugs, gamblers and armed robbers. These are the bad apples who might decide to turn their guns against unsuspecting people. The massive annual dismissal of personnel from the SLP is clear manifestation of improper screening of recruits.

Be that as it may, Government’s inability or unwillingness to provide the SLP with more vehicles and other logistics has led to more lapses in every facet of the police force. Security patrol at night is very ineffective because most police stations lack vehicles. Government needs to address this ugly situation because one of its obligations is to provide adequate security for its citizenry. How can the police protect life and property or maintain law and order when they are ill-equipped as law enforcers? The SLP should be reversed to its former standard under the administration of Keith Biddle or Brima Acha Kamara, when the SLP was a ‘Force for Good’ through and through.

Though the lawlessness that is undermining our national development was identified by the President in one of his public addresses after his re-election, not much has been done to address the problem of lawlessness. Government needs to empower the police with more logistics and motivate them to deal with lawlessness.

In the area of police recruitment, screening for recruitment can only be effective if there is no political interference; but there is. For instance, whenever there is public notice for enrolment of people into the SLP, unscrupulous politicians in the ruling party will send long lists of their own supporters and siblings which the police authorities won’t reject. This has changed the good face of the police and this trend will continue as long as the political will to allow the SLP to operate as an autonomous professional body is lacking.