Red Light

I've often been asked what it was like serving overseas as a police advisor for the U.S. Department of State. Most of the countries in which I served were post-conflict (Kosovo, Liberia, South Sudan) or in a constant state of political instability due to corruption, poverty, crime and, in many cases, hunger (Haiti & Lebanon). Afghanistan was at war when I went in 2004 and still is sixteen years later.


I did two tours in Liberia, both times seconded by the U.S. Department of State to the United Nations. The history of Liberia is a fascinating chapter of West African history. Established by freed slaves in 1820 with the help of abolitionists, it became Africa's first democracy in 1847. Their constitution and flag were modeled after the USA, but, unfortunately, so were their domestic policies, including the subjugation of native Africans. However, this is not a history lesson on Liberia; there are a multitude of credible sources available which carry information on why the nation was formed and how it developed following its inception.


The video below is an accurate reflection of what the mission was like when I served there, although I was much farther south along the coast in the town of Harper, Maryland County, which borders the country of Côte d'Ivoire. This video, which includes stills, was shot in the capital of Monrovia in a neighborhood called Paynesville in a district known as Red Light. Rife with poverty, Red Light was so named because of the high level of prostitution and the many women who resorted to that activity in an effort to survive. An African U.N. police officer reported that a woman offered him oral sex in return for half of the sandwich he was eating, in order that she and her child might have food to eat. This is the stark reality of much of sub-Saharan Africa, and, in particular, war-torn and post-conflict countries.


The video was made by an officer of the Philippine National Police named Magbalon, who presented it as a going away present to a friend of mine named Harold Walker who was the station commander at Red Light. Walker showed me this video in 2006 and I obtained his permission to put it on my website.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oorfb8P8zL0















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J.R. LONSWAY

AUTHOR | RETIRED DEPUTY CHIEF OF POLICE

J.R. Lonsway served 22 years with the Las Cruces, New Mexico, police department and retired as a Deputy Chief of Police. After retirement he served with the U.S. Department of State as a police advisor in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Liberia, Haiti, Lebanon, and South Sudan. He is a former U.S. Marine.

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