Much to be desired of police

Editorial, Normal

The National- Thursday, February 3, 2011

 IF Port Moresby police cannot detain a single one of the persons responsible for the slaying of five people over the weekend, then Papua New Guinea has a major problem with its ability to enforce laws and maintain order in the community.

The five people were practically butchered with machetes in broad daylight in front of a number of people at various locations on different days last week and over the weekend.

Seven days after the fight started over a mobile phone snatching at Gordon market, no arrests have been made. Police are basically clueless as to where the murderers are.

If one were to ask the police where the haus krai for any of the murdered people is being held, they would probably say they do not know.

Homicide, in any metropolitan police jurisdiction, is normally a top priority case which warrants daily conferences, detectives working around the clock and the commission of all resources.

In PNG, generally, murders are treated as if they were a petty theft.

Five metres from the Gordon market is a big fully-manned police station headed by a police station commander. It comes complete with police cells. A full compliment of personnel man the station.

Immediately in front of the market, and across the road, is one of the biggest police barracks. You would expect police, including those off duty at the barracks, to scramble if any disturbances occur at or near the market.

Last weekend, the murders could have been committed in Jayapura for all the attention it received from the police force.

As an example, when the first victim was carried into a clinic with his throat slashed, The National was notified.

When one of our journalists called the NCD command, he was told that there was no disturbance of any kind at the Gordon market. He was that certain. He did not even check. 

When the journalist called him back and said there definitely had been a killing and that there was a body, the same officer said he was aware that his men had chased off illegal traders outside the market but, for all the life of him, he could not understand how a person got killed in the process.

Again, there was no checking to see if any killings had occurred in and around the market premises.

We appreciate that the population of Port Moresby far exceeds present police capacity as Metropolitan Superintendent Tondop said on Tuesday.

Tondop said his command was ill-prepared to effectively contain crime in the city because of limited manpower and logistics problems.

The ratio of police personnel to people weighs so unfairly against the police force.

That is not just for Port Moresby but for all of PNG. 

Indeed, Port Moresby is lucky in a sense. It has the Bomana Police College, the McGregor barracks – HQ of the special services division – the Gordon, Tokam, Tasion and Kila barracks and scattered police stations at every major suburb in the capital.

Outside major shopping centres, there are cop shops. There are police beats consisting of regular policemen and reservists.

Many police vehicles are on Port Moresby roads 24/7. However, under-strength or outnumbered or outmoded the equipment, the capital city has the biggest concentration of police seen anywhere in Papua New Guinea.

And, it is in this city that we continually hear police chiefs appeal to the public for peace and calm rather than make arrests.

Put simply: If it cannot be done in Port Moresby, forget police work throughout the country. 

That is the sad but stark state of police work in PNG as it hurtles towards a future where multi-billion opportunities are going to bring in their own quota of criminals, terrorists and sophisticated criminal behaviour.

The government ought to be seriously listening to what the police chiefs are saying. If it means doubling or tripling the manpower, it has to be done.

If it means refleeting and re-equipping the force, it has to be done.

If it means extensive training here and abroad, it has to be done.

If laws must be changed as acting Deputy Police Commissioner Fred Yakasa suggests, it has to be done.

And, if hundreds of millions of kina must be spent to ensure the law enforcement arm of government is good and ready to contain crime, which is spiraling out of control in the country, well, it must be done.

We appreciate and support Tondop’s comment that crime is not only the business of the police force, but everybody’s. Still, the police force is constitutionally established and compelled to protect citizen and property.

Today, it is ill-prepared to carry out that noble calling.