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Citizens more scared of police than crims: what’s the answer?


RPNGC, Tufi, 1957POLICE CORRUPTION AND BRUTALITY has been a hot topic of discussion in Papua  New Guinea recently – and PNG Attitude readers have been in the forefront after a hard-hitting article by Ganjiki D Wayne attacked the 'low morality' of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

Eventually PNG police commissioner Tom Kulunga got in the act after a particularly vicious incident where a policeman crushed his wife's foot with an iron bar.

Ordering his commanders to bring their officers under control, Kulunga said he was “ashamed” of the force.

In his article, Wayne argued that “the blame should rest solely on the policeman who commits such offences. We all choose our actions in the end, and are ultimately personally responsible… These police officers have lost all moral ground.”

As Phil Fitzpatrick’s Days of the Kiap series has highlighted, the RPNGC and its predecessor constabularies have a great tradition of courage, loyalty, resourcefulness and service.

Fitzpatrick has since commented in PNG Attitude that the “old time police in the days before independence were certainly not angels but they had a deep pride and sense of brotherhood. If one of their own stepped out of line they were immediately jumped upon by their comrades and brought to heel.

“Those old policemen earned the rare honour of putting the word 'Royal' in front of their title. It is this title that is now being sullied.”

Fitzpatrick said “return the pride in the force and the rest will follow, but don't ask me how you do that.”

Reader David Kitchnoge agreed that “policing in PNG in all its aspects is at an all time low.

“Most people fear the police more than criminals,” he said. “Personally, my fear arises from not knowing what frame of mind the police would be in at a given time.

“It is this unpredictability that makes my hair stand when I cross paths with the police. At least I can predict the criminals’ behaviour with a certain degree of accuracy.”

Michael Dom observed that “the most important moral idea for police to know is that everyone should be treated equally under the law. We have no choice in that matter.

“If cops are being crooked then they have broken laws and, regardless of whether you have morals or not, when you break laws you get punished,” he said.

This was an action endorsed by Barbara Short who remarked that “the best solution is to take them to court, try them and, if found guilty, put them in prison with the criminals they have previously caught.”

Long-time PNG resident Tony Flynn argued that PNG has “the type of police leaders our rulers have wished upon us. Please do not blame the police at the sharp end.

“The blame should rest firmly on the people who are paid to be in control,” he said. “They are unable to control the rogue police who give a bad name to the rest.

“Good policemen, who would give top quality service, are left to stagnate under this bad leadership.”

This elemental point pinning the responsibility on better leadership was also made by respected ex-Kiap Bob Cleland, who began in the service of PNG in the 1950s: “A solution can't work from the bottom up. It can only work from the top down.”

It is very hard to disagree with that.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill should be saying to his Police Minister and Police Commissioner: “Shape up or ship out.”


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Fidelia Lai

I will disagree with the comment made by Tony Flynn saying that we that cannot blame the police at the sharp end.

If cops being crooked then they have broken the laws.

Whether you have this qualification of what you are and trying to protect yourself from what you done is a shame.

I would said that it's not on, if you breaks the law you need to face the law; not only blaming the police leader at the top but all of you need to be blamed.

Therefore they should respond firmly to the people who are paid to be in control and also their officers receiving their commands.

And if taking action such as "shape it or ship out" is possible, then take it. Because there are many developments taking place in the country and we need good quality leaaders to manage.

Noel Berry

The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary must introduce a more community based approach. A culture of tinted unmarked Police vehicles with unnecessarily heavily armed policemen must be done away with. Can we have unarmed neatly groomed police personnel with only a tuned police frequency radio walking our streets and villages? Firearms should be restricted and limited in issuing on patrols or attending to complaints or emergencies. Our Police must be deployed among our communities where they patrol on foot beats and adhere to complaints at doorsteps rather then the Police station. It must be known to whoever who wants to join the constabulary that it does not involve cruising around vehicles and threatening and intimidating offenders and the general public with guns. Rather they must know that it is a force of brave people who are willing to quell crime with no unnecessary use of weapons and force but sheer hard work and loyalty.

Robin Lillicrapp

Does any one know how to recall Inspector Metau?

I think Phil Fitzpatrick was the last to spot him.

David Kitchnoge

I have little sympathy for violent criminals either.

But I agree police must have the wit and courage to go after those white collar pigs and lock them up safely behind bars.

Don Tapio

The front page photo of dead criminaLs lined up on the road in Port Moresby a few weeks ago with police standing by like SWAT commandos celebrating a 'kill' speaks a thousand words.

These men were robbing an Asian shop when they met their fate.

Wouldn't it be refreshing (don't hold your breath) to see some white collar Waigani raskol being treated like a 'real' raskol by our policemen and women?

Just thinking.

Ganjiki D Wayne

Thank you Keith for extending the discussion further.

I'd really hate to see us forget this deplorable state of affairs in PNG.

I'm sure there's a way to address this issue. We just need leaders who are serious to put some hard thinking, make some hard decisions, and then put their money where their mouth is and make things happen.

It's not impossible.

David Kitchnoge

Agreed Keith - the shape up or ship out approach would be the best top down solution to dealing with the issue.

Kevin O'Regan

Michael, good idea, Keith, good summary. I am in Lae and I am happy to say that our local police have really sharpened up over the past 6 or so months.

They are wearing spotlessly clean uniforms and obviously have some pride in that uniform. I see them at Kumalo river crossing, Wau and various trouble spots on the Highway.

No member of the travelling public or everyday workforce would feel intimidated or threatened by these guys. They are proud professionals out there to help.

I believe it is more of a case of the bad apples spoiling the total image. I am not talking about the road block boys at Yonki and Heganofi. I mean the "proper" police.

Michael Dom

Of course PNG Attitude can not be responsible for 'leading the charge' but we can use the open forum as a meeting room to discuss what actions may be worth moving on. Cheers.

Michael Dom

A good summary of our comments, Keith. What else can we do with it?
Is it possible to use your article as a letter from 'concerned citizens & friends' to post in both newspapers?

What about a full story for the weekend magazine?

Perhaps we can make more noise, have a vendetta on police violence, and better yet lobby with those in the position to do something?

I'm out of touch with the news but has there been interviews of the general public to get their comments?

Also, how about voices from within the police ranks, surely some of them are unhappy with what's happening, even if they want to remain anonymous.

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