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Liberia’s new Inspector General of Police is making subtle impact

Liberia’s Inspector General of Police Patrick Toe Sudue before some members of the Senate during his confirmation hearing.

NEW YORK —-On January 22, 2018, Liberia inaugurated a new president, His Excellency George Manneh Weah.  In his inaugural speech, the new Liberian leader unveiled his political culture: the Pro-Poor Agenda.  Following that concept, the president has made several appointments in government, one of them is the position of Inspector General of the Liberia National Police.

President Weah appointed Patrick Toe Sudue as inspector general and director of the Liberia National Police. Sudue replaces outgoing police inspector general/director Gregory Coleman who is said to have won praise from some quarters of the Liberian society and Liberia’s international partners for constructively managing the police force in difficult times, especially during the country’s contentious electoral process in late 2017.

Inspector General P. T. Sudue

Since the appointment of Sudue, Globe Afrique’ research and analysis unit has been following the activities of the Liberia National Police and the management style of the new inspector general, Patrick Sudue, a career police manager and veteran of the force. So far, the new inspector general has scored excellent marks.  His understanding of the role and responsibilities of policing is encouraging; his management style excellent and his operational policies and vision are admirable.

Unlike past inspectors general/directors, Sudue’s focus is to rebrand the Liberia National Police as a positive entity relied upon by the Liberian community, rather than one that is seen as an antagonist to the communities.  The new inspector general/director is primarily focused on enhancing community relations services, a new unique component of the criminal justice system worldwide.

Community relations service seeks to prevent or resolve community conflicts and tensions arising from actions, policies, and practices perceived to be discriminatory based on anything such as tribe, social status, regional origin or such things as race, color, or national origin.  It is an actionable activity and conduct rooted in policies and operations that provide services, including conciliation, mediation, and technical assistance, directly to people and their communities to help them resolve conflicts that tear at the fabric of an increasingly racially and ethnically diverse society.

Over the years, the Community Relations Service in other countries has assisted police departments and communities in coming to grips with the difficult task of maintaining law and order in a complex and changing multicultural society.  In a number instances, these efforts have involved minority citizens’ complaints about police behavior, use of force, and hate groups.

Inspector general/director Sudue, since taking over of the Liberia National Police has developed an open-door policy to his office, welcoming the views of all professional Liberians and the public in finding ways and generating ideas that can help build a good relationship between the Liberia National Police and Liberian communities nationwide.

In the past, the relationship between the Liberian public and law enforcement in the country, particularly its violent nature, has been under continual re-examination both locally and internationally. Police-citizen violence and related concerns have been prime topics of conversation by human rights and civil society groups as well as whenever law enforcement professionals gather to discuss problems facing Liberia.

Inspector General / Director Patrick Sudue since taking the helm of the Liberia National Police Force has made reviewing the use of force by police a top priority, and he seeks to do that in partnership with various human rights and civil society groups in the country at a gradual pace.

Generally, there are two premises that underline the approaches to policing with respect to community relations and law enforcement.  One is that the police, by the power and authority that society vests in them, have overarching duties and responsibility for the outcome of encounters with citizens. However, this in no way ignores the fact that the police must deal with such groups as criminals, persons under the influence of alcohol and drugs, law-abiding citizens, and persons with a mental impairment. The second and main premise of concern is that good policing must take into consideration two equally significant factors: the values on which a police agency operates and acts, as well as the practices it follows.  For Inspector General Sudue, these are fundamental principles in transforming the Liberia National Police and in ensuring that it gains the trust, respect, and confidence of Liberians.

The new inspector general is working to adopt a set of values, and in doing so he recognizes that it is equally important that the Liberia National Police clearly and publicly states those values so that Liberians can begin to build trust and respect for the force.

Sudue is committed to developing high standards for the Liberia National Police and is doing everything for all to know and understand them. To be significant, these values must be known to all members of the community as well as all members of the Liberia National Police, based on his vision.  In addition, Sudue wants the police department’s values to incorporate the citizens’ expectations, desires, and preferences.

Sudue’s overriding thinking is that the Liberia National Police Force must preserve and advance the principles of democracy in the country by ensuring that it is a system for maintaining order. Police officers in Liberia, however, must not only be known to maintain order but must do so in a manner consistent with our democratic form of government, according to the new inspector general.

Therefore, in Sudue’s thinking, it is incumbent upon the police to enforce the law and deliver a variety of other services in a manner that not only preserves, but also extends precious democratic values. In this context, the inspector general wants the Liberian National Police to become the living expression of the meaning and potential of a democratic form of government. The police must not only respect but also protect the rights guaranteed to each citizen by the Liberian Constitution.

An observation of the new inspector general’s core management of the Liberian National Police reveals that he believes the police should place its highest value on the preservation of human life and that the prevention of crime is it’s number one operational priority.  As such, Sudue wants to build and lead a police department that will maintain the highest standards of integrity as well as commit to professionalism in all aspects of its operations.

The new inspector general has recognized that the Liberian society is undergoing massive changes, therefore the Liberian National Police is confronted with great challenges. The essence of those challenges is to be able to respond to problems created by the social change, while at the same time providing the stability that holds the Liberian society together during a period of uncertainty.

Sudue is seeking views and recommendations from all Liberians in advancing and improving the work of the police, especially in its operational response.  Such an operational response should result in an improved quality of life for citizens and a reduction in the fear that is generated by both the reality and perception of crime.

Sudue is working to ensure that the Liberia National Police will involve the Liberian community in the delivery of its services such that the police force will act and believes that it must be accountable to the community it serves.   The Liberia National Police is not an entity unto itself. Rather, it is a part of Liberian government and exists only for serving the Liberian public to which it must be accountable.  With this mindset, Inspector General Sudue is quietly making a difference.  He will probably go down as one of the finest inspectors general /directors of police in Liberia’s history and in Africa’s history if he receives the fullest support of his men and women in the police force and the Liberian public.

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Ben Mabande

Ben Mabande is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.
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