Where do you teach the Liberian police to keep the peace? In Exeter

Officers from former war-torn African state have come to Devon to find out how law and order works there. Mark Hughes joins them

Most weekdays, Assistant Commissioner Clement Wisseh investigates rapes or hunts the gangs of armed robbers that plague his home country.

Yesterday the 32-year-old officer from the Liberia National Police was dealing with a minor road traffic accident involving a Rover 45 and a caravan on the A380 just outside Exeter.

"It is very different," he said. "I am used to dealing with much more serious crimes much more often in Liberia."

Mr Wisseh is one of six senior Liberian officers spending a week shadowing sergeants and constables from Devon and Cornwall Constabulary.

They have also spent a fortnight at the national police training college in Bramshill, Hampshire.

While Devon and Cornwall has 3,500 policemen and women, more than 1,000 unwarranted officers and 1,800 staff members to serve its population of 1.6 million people, the Liberia National Police has 3,996 officers and 190 staff to police a country of 3.3 million.

The British force has a fleet of 1,232 vehicles, including motorcycles, riot vans and a helicopter. Their Liberian counterparts have just 35 cars – one vehicle for every 114 officers.

Despite working in a country where tensions simmer from two civil wars, the Liberian police do not have riot gear, tear gas or guns. There are no CCTV cameras to help them investigate crime. And only senior officers have access to email, but even then, their addresses are web-based Yahoo accounts.

Deputy Commissioner Robert Saah, the most senior Liberian officer to have made the trip to Britain, said: "The technology here is very different. In Liberia we cannot use CCTV. If someone is attacked in the street the only technology we have to rely on is mobile phones – someone phoning us to report the attack. But even then, the person phoning us is usually the victim so by the time we get there the criminal has gone.

"Here policing is so much more advanced. You have officers on patrol, but we do not have enough cars to do that. If there is a homicide in Liberia we cannot perform the autopsy. We have to send the body to Ghana and wait a long time for the results.

"Also, I visited the CCTV room in Exeter and I was amazed – so many cameras. It was a joyous sight, but I thought 'How much would this cost?' Too much for Liberia. But we can learn from the UK police, they are our role models."

A lack of technology and resources is not their only obstacle. The force was established in 1962 but, after the start of the first civil war in 1989, the police lost the public's confidence. Crime remains high, mainly due to an unemployment rate of 85 per cent.

Assistant Commissioner Micckee Gray said: "There was a breakdown around 1990. People were not comfortable with the way the police handled the issues. They thought the police was not fair and they shied away from us.

"Now we are trying to gain their respect back. I would say that we have the respect of 80 per cent of the population but we do not have the support of the community that the British police has.

"This week I went to a primary school with neighbourhood officers and it was interesting to see that the children will interact with police; they respect the officers and give them information.

"The thing I have learnt most from my visit is the importance of neighbourhood policing: To police proactively – getting to know the community – and not just reactively when a crime occurs.

"I think the Police Community Support Officers are a great idea. They plug a very important gap. If we could do that in Liberia it would be fantastic."

Superintendent Nick Jarrold has been responsible for looking after the Liberian officers in Britain. "They have learnt a lot, but we have learnt too. Before they arrived, I did not realise just how massive a challenge they faced," he said. "Certainly if we were suddenly faced with a situation where we had only 30 vehicles and no technology, policing would be virtually impossible."

When asked if he had any criticisms of Devon and Cornwall, Deputy Commissioner Saah replied: "Yes. The weather is too cool."

How they compare


Population: 3.3 million

Size of police force: 4,186; 35 vehicles

Most common crime: armed robbery

Life expectancy: 49

Largest city: Monrovia pop. 1 million

Unemployment rate: 85 per cent

*Devon and Cornwall

Population: 1.6 million

Size of police: 6,360; 1,232 vehicles

Most common crime: criminal damage

Life expectancy: 80

Largest city: Plymouth, pop. 250,000

Unemployment rate: 4 per cent

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants