LDEA Officer Dismissed After Choking and Kneeling on Suspect’s Head

KAKATA, Margibi – The Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency has dismissed an officer captured on video on March 25 choking a man and kneeling on his head while he and other officers attempted to arrest and handcuff the suspect.

LDEA said it was terminating Jeremiah Johnson, deputy commander for operations in Margibi, because his actions were unprofessional. The agency’s information and communication officer, Michael Jipply, said the commander’s dismissal followed an investigation by a board of inquiry.

The viral video captured by FrontPage Africa showed Johnson and other law enforcement officers attempting to arrest the unidentified man after suspecting him of being a drug dealer. Johnson and the other officer hold the man down as they attempt to handcuff him. Johnson’s hand is seen choking the side of the neck of the man as he pleas, “I can’t breathe.” A crowd gathers around the scene, and voices can be heard asking Johnson to stop choking the man. Eventually, the man rises to his feet and is involved in a lengthy tussle with two officers before being let go.

Jipply, the communications officer, said the LDEA was dismissing Johnson to set a precedent to other officers to conduct themselves in a lawful and orderly manner and be sensitive to their surroundings when carrying out law enforcement. He worried that the event could further erode public confidence in the agency. Taking action against Johnson was a way to “save the image of the institution,” he believes.

“We feel that this is [a] deterrent to signal out to other officers who are under [a] duty to perform and discharge their duty with [the] utmost professionalism [to] be conscious,” he said.

“People who come with the mind to serve the institution are obliged to exhibit responsibility, tolerance, and professionalism.”

Not only was Johnson’s behavior problematic and a breach of the agency’s code of conduct, but Jipply noted it was also a gross human rights violation.

Prior to this event, the LDEA already faced a major image problem. In 2019, civil society group NAYMOTE reported that 72 percent of respondents to its quality of governance perceptions survey rated the LDEA as the least trusted security agency.

In April 2020, a 21-year-old pregnant woman in labor was beaten by an LDEA officer while on a motorbike going to the hospital. The officer said his action was justified because the bike rider violated the 3 p.m. COVID-19 curfew.

Featured photo screenshot of FrontPage Africa video.

Emmanuel Degleh

Emmanuel has over a decade of experience working as a community radio broadcaster. He is the Margibi correspondent for the Liberia Broadcasting System and the Manager for Classic FM 93.9 MHz, one of Liberia’s leading community radio stations. Emmanuel is also a member of the Press Union of Liberia and a 2016 Internews Health Journalism Fellow.

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