By Landing Ceesay
The President of the Gambia BAR Association, Salieu Taal, has called for the disbandment of the Police Anti Crime Unit (ACU) saying “It has no place in a democracy.”
Mr. Taal took to his personal Facebook page to narrate an encounter he had with some members of the Anti-Crime Unit sometime last week.
The Gambia Bar President in the Facebook post said that the Anti-Crime Unit (ACU) of the Gambia Police Force (GPF) still behaves like they are in a police state. He narrated that while driving around the access road to the Independent Stadium, last week, he saw some young girls in uniform hurled behind a pickup truck with an Anti Crime Unit personalized number plate.
“The girls looked terrified and intimidated whilst the ACU were armed with guns, looking combat ready. I followed their car and whilst in pursuit, I called the chair of @NHRC Gambia (National Human Rights Commission) to keep him posted. The ACU vehicle finally stopped in front of a school near the TANGO office, with the girls still in their custody and looking terrified. I got off my car and asked the leader of the team why he had school girls in uniform hurled behind their pickup trucks whilst fully armed.
“He was very rude, tried to intimidate me and told me to leave (go take care of your business). His tone was very aggressive, and I had to inform him of my profession and position as Bar President (God knows what would have happened otherwise). He blatantly refused to answer my questions and commanded the girls not to talk to me. There were bystanders, including a teacher from the girl’s school, who looked helpless and some indifferent,” Mr. Taal wrote of his encounter with the ACU.
The Bar President wrote that he reminded the commander that he was dealing with young girls and that they have rights under the law, insisting that they (ACU) should not take the girls away. He told the ACU that he intended to pursue the matter, as he attempted to reach the police high command and the Ministry of Justice at the same time. Those attempts prove futile.
Mr. Taal said he had his phone on speaker all these time so that the Chair of NHRC could hear his exchanges with the ACU commander.
“Eventually, the girls were released. What baffled me was that a teacher from the girl’s school stood by and said nothing. In fact, he blamed the girls for loitering after school. The ACU commander refused to give me his name and sped off rudely. He claimed that I was interfering with his job and that People like “me” are spoiling this country. What was scary was the brazen display of force within a school environment and arrogance from the ACU. I dare it LOUDLY that the ACU does not know how to police in a democratic space. Their attitude towards civilians is very aggressive.
“I do not believe the training will change the mindset of the ACU. I believe the ACU must be disbanded and replaced with a force that understands the need to provide professional services whilst respecting the rights of individuals. This speaks to the failure of the Security Sector Reform (SSR) which has failed to usher in a mindset change in the Police Force in general and instill a sense of service to the citizenry /country as paramount. Preserving law and order is not a license to abuse rights,” he wrote.
Mr. Taal in the same write-up went on to say that whilst the GPF has improved in its dealings with civilians and communicates better with the public, the ACU is the big elephant in the room; and a vestige of Jammeh’s legacy.
“It has no place in a democracy, and I am calling for its abolition and replacement. #neveragain,” Mr. Taal stated on his Facebook page.