By Bampia Bundu
The Local Unit Commander of the Makeni Police Division, Samuel Benedict Vandy, has described police personnel of the Operations Support Division (OSD) of the Sierra Leone Police Force as ‘old rebels and a bunch of illiterates’ who found their way into the police force through political connections.
Giving testimony at the ongoing Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRC-SL) Public hearing on the Bumbuna upheaval of 16th, 17th, and 18th April 2012 sitting at the Bumbuna Court Barray on Day 4, LUC Vandy claimed that the command structure of the OSD personnel was different from other divisions of the Sierra Leone Police. He said OSD personnel hardly take direct instructions from the general duty officers, as they always rely on their commanders for instructions for reasons best known to them.
He further claimed that most of the OSD personnel were illiterates as they were enrolled in the police force via political recommendations, without going through the right scrutiny process. He also said that the OSD personnel lacked proper training as their relation with the people was poor due to their inability to adequately and responsibly communicate.
Furthermore, the LUC Makeni accused most of the OSD personnel of being substance abusers which might be the main reason for them always acting irresponsibly in the discharge of their duties. He also claimed that most of the OSD personnel sent as reinforcement to quell the Bumbuna crisis were hooligans who didn’t obey commands from senior general duty officers except from their own commanders.
“The OSD personnel usually refer to us as women who don’t know about guns or how to handle riots or crisis situations. They say our command is not tactical,” LUC Vandy told the hearing.
He further claimed that the right operation orders were not put in place before the intervention of the police in the Bumbuna strike as there was no clear chain of command. He said the commanding officers received instructions from Headquarters and they were working strictly on those commands.
Consequently, LUC Vandy appealed to the panel to call on the government to institute an efficient recruitment process for the OSD. He also recommended to the panel that regular training and capacity building must be integral in the operations of OSD.
In addition, Officer-In-Charge of Bumbuna Police Station ASP Daniel Lahai Bockarie Konneh confirmed that they always had difficulty in handling the issues of OSD personnel. He said due to what he described as their low level of education they always do things out of the way without following due procedure of command.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Frank Bai Kargbo, also testifying at the inquiry, confirmed that the government has realized that the OSD of the Sierra Leone Police needs more capacity building and training to enable them work in line with the other officers in terms of human interaction, discipline and responsibility. However, the AG refused to acknowledge allegations that OSD personnel hardly take instructions from general duty officers, claiming that he was only hearing about the allegation at the inquiry.