LIBERIA: Women snub police recruitment drive


MONROVIA, 21 Apr 2006 (IRIN) - In an effort to get more women to sign up to Liberia’s revamped police force government and United Nations officials on Friday re-launched a flagging police recruitment drive.

Authorities said the first recruitment campaign which kicked off in 2004, has put less than one hundred women into uniform amongst over 1,600 newly trained police officers.

“Discouragingly, among the 1,633 already in the new police force, only 87 of them are women,” said Benetta Tarr, Liberia’s deputy Gender Affairs Minister.

Luiz Carlos Da Costa, the deputy head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), which is supervising the recruitment process, said the new police force must have a gender balance. The new force already has a female Police Chief, a first in Liberia.

“We want as many women as possible, but we are targeting between 30 to 40 percent women to join the new police force…let our sisters come forward and compete in the force,” Police Chief Beatrice Sieh said on Friday.

But it is not just women the that are not signing up to the new force, a job with the police is proving unpopular with men too. While the recruitment drive launched in 2004 sought to recruit 3,500 police officers, less than half that number have been employed so far.

Police Chief Sieh said a career with the police is unattractive to the public because of the low pay and the past record of police in the 14 years of civil war that ended in 2003.

“The police remain unattractive to the public due to two factors: low salary and incentives and negative perceptions of the police as a result of its role in the Liberian civil crisis,” she added.

Police officers on the new force will be paid US $10 to US $20 a month, equivalent to typical wages in the Liberian civil service. A sack of rice, one of the staples in the Liberian diet, costs around US $22.

Liberia’s last police force which served under former president, Charles Taylor who ruled Liberia from 1997 until his departure into exile in 2003, was estimated to be around 3,000-4000 strong. Liberian human rights groups accused police under Taylor of torture, brutality and illegal arrests.