BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SIERRA LEONE POLICE

The Sierra Leone Police Force is the brainchild of the British Government. Its inception dates back to 1808 when Freetown was declared a British Crown Colony. In the absence of any formal organised body to keep the peace, some retired British Non-Commissioned Officers and Privates were appointed by Magistrates to come to Sierra Leone to maintain law and order.

Between 1863 -1888, the then Police Force had metamorphosed in order to address the ugly incidents which were rearing their heads especially during the 1881 Koya and 1888 Sherbro disturbances. These disturbances led to the deployment of Police along the frontier. In 1889, therefore, the Police Force was divided – Military and Frontier duties were taken over by the FRONTIER POLICE, while Civilian duties were left with the Civilian Police. The Frontier Police subsequently became known as the COURT MESSENGER FORCE, and were made responsible for the PROTECTORATE while the Civilian Police were made responsible for the colony.

On the 27th October, 1894, in the Royal Gazette of that date, the Civilian Police in the Colony were given the designation `The Sierra Leone Police Force` – (SLPF), which has remained unchanged to this day. Captain V.F. LAPHAN was seconded from the Army to control the Police Force, with the rank of Superintendent, and Mr. BROOKS, a Metropolitan Police Officer, was appointed Inspector of Police to assist him. He eventually succeeded Captain Laphan as the Superintendent of Police. In 1909, Superintendent Brooks was appointed the first Commissioner of Police. It was during his tenure of office that the first Police Band was formed out of subscriptions made by members of the Force and Local firms for the purchase of the instruments, although the band was dissolved in 1913 as a result of a dispute. No real significant strides took place in the Force until MR. C.H. WARD, (O.B.E.), Superintendent of Police from Nigeria, took over command of the Force as Commissioner of Police from Captain P.T. BRODIE, (D.S.O.,M.C) in 1943. The strength of the Force was 300, including two (2) expatriates, the Commissioner and the Assistant Commissioner. Africans filled the rest of the ranks. The serious civil disturbances led to the quick introduction of the RIOT SQUAD which was subsequently trained to contain further riots. MR. WARD raised the strength to 600 and this created a welcome and overdue increase in promotion chances. For the first time, Africans were promoted to the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) and fleet of vehicles comprising cars, Lorries, motor cycles and bicycles were obtained. He started the first proper Training School at Port Loko in 1944, which was later transferred to the Naval Camp at Hastings; where it stands to this day. He also started and got going the present Police Band; introduced a Pigeon Communication System between Police detachments and eventually replaced this by a Police Wireless Communication System which today covers the whole country.

  1. WARD was succeeded by J.P.I FORDE who raised the strength to 1,000, sent the first African Sub-Inspector to train at Henden; which continued thenceforth. He introduced the first proper FORCE STANDING ORDERS (F.S.O.) the Police FEDERATION AND POLICE COUNCIL.

In 1952, MR. W.G. SYER (C.B.E.) took over and wasted no time in taking policing to the provinces which resulted in its expansion. He affiliated the Police Force to International Police Organisation (INTERPOL) and disbanded the RIOT SQUAD, thereby introducing a system in which every Police Officer was taught riot duties no matter what section of the Force he may be attached to.

Between 1963 -1969, MR. L.W. LEIGH became the first Sierra Leone Commissioner of Police. Under his leadership, a POLICE ACT was established in 1964; which was meant to consolidate and amend the laws relating to the Sierra Leone Police Force i.e. the protection of life and property, the prevention and detection of crime and the apprehension of offenders etc.

Between 1969 and 1972, MR. JENKINS N.E.G. SMITH became the second Sierra Leonean Commissioner of Police who led the Force through Republic in 1971. In 1970, in order to consolidate his power, late President Siaka Probyn Stevens created another arm of the Sierra Leone Police Force known as Internal Security Unit (I.S.U.). The ISU later came to be known as the Special Security Division (SSD) – an armed unit mandated to quell riots and other related disturbances. However, before this time, the Sierra Leone Police Force had been playing a neutral role in the performance of their duties thereby gaining credit from the civil populace.

Politics started creeping into Police functions when Sierra Leone entered into Republican Status. The uniform at that time consisted of grey shorts and grey jacket with black shoes and commerband. Section 174 of the Sierra Leone Constitution of 1978 changed the traditional role of the Force by the appointment of the then Commissioner of Police, MR. P.C. KAETU-SMITH (1973 – 1979) as one of the seven (7) appointed Members of Parliament by the Executive President; thus politicising the role of the Police Force.

Between 1981 and 1984, Honourable P. C. Kaetu Smith was succeeded by Hon. J.A. GRANT

In 1986, Hon P.M. JOHNSON became the first Inspector General of Police. On the 1st of January, 1987, the Force was re-divisionalized into Police Divisions, each division being represented by letters ranging from `A` to `N` and each division commanded by a Chief Police Officer (CPO). These were further sub-divided into Police Districts and placed under the command of an Officer Commanding Districts (O/C) who may be a Deputy Superintendent of Police or Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP). The entire country was divided into fourteen (14) Divisions. The Western Area was divided into four Divisions, namely A, B, C and D Divisions. The Northern Province was also divided into four (4) Divisions namely E, F, G and H Divisions; Southern Province three (3) divisions – I, J. and K Divisions and Eastern Province, three (3) Divisions – L, M and N Divisions.

In 1987, Hon. James Bambay Kamara succeeded MR. P.M. JOHNSON. In December, 1991, in a bid to redeem the good image of the Sierra Leone Police Force which had been seriously dented by politics, the British Government sent Mr. KEITH LEWIS, a retired British Superintendent of Police to restructure the Force. Series of Police courses were then introduced into the curriculum in order to enhance the force in policing a modern democratic society. Training courses like Junior and Senior Management Courses, Trainers Course, Criminal Investigations Department Course known as the YOKKSHIRE Course; to name but few, were introduced. These Courses actually went a long way to restructure the Police.

However, this invaluable training programmes for Police were interrupted by the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) Coup of 29th April, 1992; during which, the then Inspector-General of Police, Mr. James Bambay Kamara, who had increasingly become unpopular, was executed. This political interregnum by the NPRC Junta saw the manipulation of the Police by the Junta. Thus Police was caught in a dilemma; trying to maintain its role to its people and at the same time satisfying the Junta. Police then became a `Force in Crisis`; until the emergence of the democratically elected Government of Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in 1996.

Mr Joe Stanley, who was Deputy Inspector General under Hon. James Bambay Kamara, was appointed Inspector General by the Military Junta in 1992. He later went on leave and never returned to continue on his assignment.

Mr. Walter O. F. Nicol succeeded Mr. Joe Stanley as Inspector General in 1993.

Between 1994 and 1996, Mr William J. Siaffa, a retired officer, was recalled to assume the post of Inspector General under the Junta. His Deputy, Mr. Teddy Munda Williams succeeded him as Inspector General in 1996. He served in that capacity up to 1997 when the democratically elected government of Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was overthrown on 25th May, 1997. He later went abroad and never returned to continue his job as Inspector General.

All through the Military Regime of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council [AFRC], Mr. Kandeh Bangura took interim control of the Force; with the view to maintaining the structures of the Police intact. Mr. Kandeh Bangura served in that tentative capacity up to 1999 when Mr Keith Biddle was appointed the Inspector General by the Government of Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

By this time, the public who regarded the Police as being corrupt completely lost confidence in the Force. The Government of Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah therefore solicited the services of the British Government to help restructure the Sierra Leone Police Force. The British Government responded by sending a Team known as the Commonwealth Police Development Task Force (CPDTF) which was headed by Mr. KEITH BIDDLE, who was later appointed Inspector General.

Under the dynamic leadership of the British born Inspector General of Police, the Sierra Leone Police Force gradually regained the confidence of the public by the introduction of a Change Management Strategy` under what he called the `restructuring programme`. The purpose was to make the Force become `A Force for Good`. The Restructuring Programme saw the establishment of new Departments like: the Complaint Discipline and Internal Investigations Department [CDIID], Media and Public Relations, Family support, Corporate Services, Community Relations and Local Needs Policing introduced; among others. He also adopted a `Leaner and Fitter` rank structure which reflects roles and responsibilities.

Mr. Brima Acha Kamara, who was in-charge of the Change Management, succeeded Mr. Keith Biddle as Inspector General of Police in May 2003. Since he was responsible for Change Management during the tenure of office of Mr. Keith Biddle, he took the opportunity to actualise the formulated Sierra Leone Police Strategic Development Plan of 2002/2005. It was during his tenure of office that the following senior ranks: Assistant Commissioner, Senior Assistant Commissioner and Commissioner, were merged as one to become Assistant Inspector General [AIG]. He came with the slogan – “No Turning Back“ to the bad old days.

In August 2010, Mr. Francis Alieu Munu and Mr. Richard Moigbe were appointed Inspector General and Deputy Inspector General of Police respectively. Their appointments were really greeted with jubilation. The present management under Mr. Francis Alieu Munu has started effecting some administrative and operational changes in the Force. Ross Road Division has been renamed Harbour Division, Transnational Organised Crime Unit [TOCU] has been formed to address cross border crimes, Corporate Affairs and Community Affairs Departments have also been established to address emerging issues, Special Assistant to the Inspector General appointed to address administrative issues at Police Head quarters and the Assistant Inspectors General are now Directors. The Force is presently blessed with a visionary leadership that value its people and personnel.