By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
By being in a profession for more than three decades, it obviously puts one in the position to predictably say things that would come to fruition. Also, the saying that “experience is the best teacher,” has often proven to be true. This was what really transpired this time when upon receipt of a press statement from the Liberia National Police about the arrest of a police officer, who is assigned with the convoy of the President. The press statement read and issued by Acting Police Director Rose Stryker, among other things alleged that the police vehicle assigned in the Presidential convoy was caught carrying marijuana to a border town in Grand Cape Mount County. As a result, the statement said, the head of the Presidential team assigned with the convoy, Perry Dolo, and several others have been arrested and are under investigation.
The Story in question:
“The Joint Security assisted by local community members in Monrovia have arrested the head of the Presidential Police Escort Detail, Perry Dolo and another Liberian Augustine N. Saah along with a Sierra Leonean Korma Gilbanilla and a Guinean Mohammed S. Bah for allegedly transporting more than 297kg of green leafy substance believed to be marijuana.”
“According to a release issued by Acting Police Commander, Rose Stryker, Supt. Dolo and the three others were arrested at the Tennie Check Point in Grand Cape Mount County along the Liberia-Sierra Leone Border.”
“The release quoted as saying that while Security was pursuing the Presidential vehicle, Supt. Dolo abandoned the police vehicle and fled the scene, leaving his colleagues in the alleged crime, but was later apprehended in a nearby abandoned building by the Joint Security.”
“The release also quoted Acting Police Commander as saying that the Government of Liberia takes seriously the issue of transitional crime as the Joint Security Team has been closely monitoring all vehicles, including Police and other Government vehicles entering and exiting the borders and territorial lines of Liberia.”
“Meanwhile, Supt. Dolo and his Co-conspirators along with the confiscated green leafy substance believed to be marijuana, have been turned over to the Drug Enforcement Agency for further investigation, the story from the press statement said.”
Upon receipt of the press statement supra, and after reading its contents, I said to the person who brought the release that based on the phraseology and contents of the statement, the police or the government should be prepared to see streaming and sensational headlines on Monday and the days to follow. Truly to my prediction, the phraseology and contents of the press statement from the police are now the issue of concern, as others have said that it has cast an aspersion on the Presidency and furthermore, brought the presidency to public disrepute and ridicule.
In all sincerity, I am not surprised over this kind of treatment of the news, and sensationalism because sensationalism is part of journalism based on the situation, characters or newsmakers involved, especially so as it relates to “PROMINENCE” which is an important element in determining the value of news. In the case of the President, who is the epitome or embodiment of the nation, and someone who has the highest level of prominence, as it relates to news, there is always much concern, regarding anything the President is involved in or anything that relates to the Presidency.
However, this does not mean that such action was sanctioned by the President or based on the President’s acquiescence, the fact that it relates to that office or the person who is President, this would be featured high in the media. This is why it is sometimes said that, “when the President falls, that is news; when the President is sick, that is news; when the President sneezes, that is news.” This goes to show the level of how the media and society focus on the Presidency. This even extends to the President’s children, and relatives, who social scientists say enjoy “ascribed status.”
I have taken to deal with this issue professionally because of the amorphous arguments in some quarters that this man in question is not the head of the Presidential convoy. Indeed, such argument is unpersuasive and cannot hold water. The fact that the man is the head of the police escort team assigned to the convoy, he is part of that convoy and not necessarily a member of the EPS, to be the head. The head in this sense refers to the fact that the police escort is always ahead to clear the traffic for the smooth passage of the convoy. So logically, he heads the convoy. But to say something different only because he has been accused of a crime is illogical. No one is saying that this man is the head of the presidential security team, which is the Executive Protective Service (EPS).
As a student of mass communication and law, the problem in this whole scenario is the choice of words and phraseology of the press statement by the police. The police may mean good by exposing their fellow officers to show that it is also against them being involved in criminal activities, however, with the man involved and being fully aware of where he is assigned, much care and due diligence should have been taken in such matter, instead of people trying to say whether or not this man is not the head of the presidential convoy. Such argument is amorphous.
Even though “crime is not transferrable,” the fact that Perry Dolo is a part of the presidential convoy is still an embarrassment. Unarguably, his place of assignment has caused such. But on a more serious note, he was not within the scope of his assignment and not under the supervision of his bosses either, therefore, even the doctrine of Respondeat Superior in law cannot hold for this alleged act of criminality. Respondeat Superior, is a Latin phrase which means, “let the superior make answer, “is a doctrine in law holding the employers or principal liable for the employee’s or agent’s wrongful acts committed within the scope of the employment or agency.” And so in this matter, the man was not on official duty, when he was caught to give the story a different meaning. He was, as we would say in Liberia, “on his own, doing his own thing.” Even if he was on official duty, and engages in acts completely diametrical to his duty, his bosses cannot be held liable for such act.
As I said earlier, the situation is embarrassing because of his place of assignment and also as a law enforcement officer. Notwithstanding, people should avoid the insinuation that the presidency is a part. This is my concern and disagreement on the whole issue. Besides, the argument of whether or not he is the head of the escort team should not be entertained. The fact that he is head of the “Presidential Police Escort Details,” is sufficient enough to cause opprobrium to fall on the Presidency.
In closing, let me say that the media treated the statement that way because of the way and manner in which it was written. As I always said in dealing with communication issues, a piece of communication is not just the collocation of words to say something, but the message and meaning of the words in such communication.
Again, the police may have had good intention for this; the wordings of the press statement, is what is causing all of these talks, as it was not expertly done in keeping with the essence of Public Affairs Reporting in Journalism.
I Rest My Case.