Police brutality, abuse are serious problems

Editorial

POLICE brutality and abuse are serious problems which have existed for ages.
No police station in the country can claim its officers follow the rules to the letter and are completely free of misconduct.
Police Minister Jelta Wong says he is working with Police Commissioner Gari Baki on a set of new guidelines for police officers to follow.
It begs the question why it has taken this long to work out an effective, clear, stringent and workable set of guidelines or code of conduct for the constabulary.
The lack of such guidelines, or the poor enforcement of them, can be blamed for breakdown in law and order and the loss of public confidence in the police.
The management of the constabulary and the discipline level of officers are badly wanting.
How else can one explain the illegal and abusive conduct we witness and read almost daily of our police officers. It cannot be just bad attitude.
One hopes Wong, who has inherited the chronic problem, can finally clean up the police force and rid it of rogue and disobedient individuals.
That is, starting from the top to the bottom. A thorough clean sweep of the broom.
Being a former officer himself, he knows the workings of the force.
A good start, as was suggested recently, is to raise the minimum academic qualification level of recruits. Include graduates of tertiary institutions if possible. At least take in those who are able to think rationally in crisis situations and not easily blinded by greed and anger. Stringent aptitude tests and examinations are a must.
On public complaints, police have a system of recording them, usually to an internal affairs section. These complaints are investigated by other police officers.
In larger police departments, there often is a separate division that handles complaints.
Filing an internal complaint is the only avenue that can lead to discipline or termination of a police officer other than a criminal conviction of the officer, which rarely happens.
The standard procedure is when a complaint has been lodged at the police station against a police officer who has broken the law, the police station commander or officer in charge will formally charge the officer under the country’s law.
Standard practice is even if an internal complaint is not sustained, it usually stays in the officer’s personnel file.
In a properly-run police department, the fact that an officer has attracted a large number of complaints should trigger closer scrutiny.
Lae metropolitan commander Anthony Wagambie Jnr introduced foot patrols and a response unit which is arguably the most effective in the country so far.
Wagambie takes advantage of the social media platform to promote police work with a page advising and updating the public in Lae on what is happening.
Last week, Lae police also launched a whatsapp group linked to an emergency toll free number. That is going the extra mile to show the community that the police is there to protect and promote peaceful living.
The new NCDC metropolitan commander Perou N’Dranou also plans to conduct regular city patrols to regain public confidence in his command.
They are but two of the ways to make the police force work effectively in fulfilling its mandate, strengthen its management, getting rid of corruption, abuse and misconduct we have seen of late.
In saying all that, not all police officers are bad.
Many are hardworking, motivated, honest, loyal, obedient servants of the disciplined force. We take our hats off to them and urge them to continue that way.
Wong will do all of us – the constabulary in particular – a favour by getting rid of the rotten apples, streamline the system to ensure justice is served at all times, strengthen management so that public confidence is restored in the force. The task is not easy but it is also not impossible.

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