Policing: Things have changed


WE often hear good stories of a much more peaceful country in the colonial administration and shortly after independence. During that period people travelled freely between districts and provinces to trade, for courtship, work on plantations or simply to explore.
People also moved freely in cities like Port Moresby and Lae. Children went to cinemas, women went to the markets and shops freely without looking over their shoulders and those who had few beers who couldn’t make it home slept in front of shops or streets and got up with their shoes on and change still in their pockets.
There were no major road links, airports and wharfs like today. The kiaps and police officers during those days were not carrying high powered weapons like our police officers today. Yet, there not too many law breakers and a couple that got into trouble were effectively apprehended and faced the law for their crimes.

History of policing
So why are law and order problems increasing in PNG when citizens are supposed to be more civilised after 44 years of independence?
To answer this question, we look at the history of the modern policing. History reveals that the concept of modern organised and uniformed police was first established in 1829 in London. In those early days, there was so much resistance from the public at the sight of armed uniformed men patrolling the streets which were once free. To address the resistance and assure the public of the good intentions and important benefits of the police force, the authority at the time in London formulated what is now famously known as the Nine Peelian Principles which outline the purpose and mission of the police force, so they do not lose sight of why they exist and who they serve.
Law enforcement, as the term suggest, is to enforce the law in responding to a crime, arresting offenders and using force to maintain order without consideration for causes. On the other hand, policing means an approach to fighting crime through community service and problem solving.
The idea of policing requires a holistic approach to community service, taking into account the problems that plaque a community and working with the people within that community to solve them. Therefore, law enforcement is just one component of policing.

Role of the leadership
During the colonial administration, communities helped to enforce the law. This was possible because the communities had strong leadership. The leaders were well-established traditional leaders who commanded respect and had authority over the members of the community backed up with wealth and good deeds. The people trusted and listened to their leaders.
There was a sense of responsibility to uphold the good name of oneself, family, clan, tribe and community at large. Today, there is lack of leadership at all levels. For example, some good community leaders are often attacked by young frustrated school dropouts, drug addicts and troublemakers in the communities and they often get away with their rebellious behaviours.
There is no sense of responsibility and respect for elders. Men with guns claim to be leaders. Many elected leaders such as Members of Parliament (MPs) and ward councillors do not possess the type of leadership qualities once possessed by traditional leaders. For example, most of the MPs do not live in the communities nor face the daily struggles of the people. Compliance and respect for MPs is based on an anticipation for rewards. Traditional leaders on the other hand commanded respect and had authority because they were accessible and were part of the community through thick and thin.

Kiaps played critical role
In addition, routine patrols by kiaps and police to local communities especially in remote outstations (posts) played a critical role for police to do their work in the past. This is not the case anymore in today’s policing. Policemen and women today drive around in air-conditioned motor vehicles and wait for crimes to occur in order for them to respond. They hardly visit villages and settlements doing the kind of law and order awareness that was done before. The only time police visit a settlement or village is when there is a crime.

Officers should be involved more in policing rather than merely enforcing the law. – Pictures borrowed.

Because they do not have the community relationship, the public do not trust the police and therefore key information is often withheld forcing police to use force in most cases. This is not only a case for police but also senior bureaucrats such as the district and provincial administrators. When government presence is felt less and less by the people, they tend to resolve problems the way they know best – violence and this gives rise to law and order problems.

Role of the Church
Churches indirectly contribute negatively to the increasing law and order problems by condemning certain traditional institutions and practices. PNG was a value-based society with an oral culture. These values were passed from one generation to the next through traditional institutions such as the men’s and women’s house where special initiation processes took place. These were the universities where everything about life was taught.
However, without properly understanding the implications churches condemned the traditional practices outright and discouraged the haus man and haus boi. When the learning institutions were abandoned, the younger generation completely missed out on learning the set of skills and values to become productive members of the community. Without values and principles in life, younger generations turn to temporary relief such as alcohol and drug abuse which gives rise to law and order problems.

Role of education system
The education system by design and purpose contributes to the increasing law and order problems in PNG. By design, it teaches lessons and skills not necessarily useful for everyone in life. For example, primary school solely focused on sending children to high school and high school solely focused on sending children to tertiary institutions with little or no focus in preparing children who drop out of the education system to make ends meet in society.
The system is designed to eliminate children at various levels based on subjects that are not useful for everyone. While the examination process may be the best option available, the fault lies with the education system where there is no focus in preparing those children who drop out of the education system.
The education system makes them think they are failures and intellectually incapable. Members of the community also say the same and view the dropouts negatively. Such views have significant negative impact in the lives of the younger generation. As result, more and more young people tend to become rebellious members of communities which contributes to law and order problems.
By purpose, the education system aims to educate children to work in the formal sector giving false hopes and ambition to young children for jobs that do not exist for everyone. The education system needs to focus on producing ‘productive citizens’ by providing multiple options, guidance and directing children to develop their skills in areas of their strengths and interests.

Role of police
Pre-independence and shortly after, the police force a highly respected public institution. One may argue that Papua New Guineans back then were primitive and hence respected the police in fear. However, this argument would be too shallow considering that a more civilised society should have more respect for policemen and women than a primitive society.
The respect for police or government officials was underpinned by two reasons. Firstly, local communities already had a strong governance system in place with a strong leadership as discussed above. The second reason was because of the way the police of the past performed their duties.
They built good relationship with local luluais, chiefs and leaders. Respect was mutual. Police sought voluntary compliance rather than applying force. As such, we can conclude that the police of the past applied the Nine Peelian Principles in performing their duties thereby ultimately serving the force’s intended purpose.

The nine Peelian Principles are:

  1. The purpose of the police force is to prevent crime and maintain order.
  2. Police depend on the approval and trust of the public to do their job effectively.
  3. The ultimate goal of policing is to achieve voluntary compliance with the law in the community.
  4. Police to strictly adhere to the rule of law, be impartial and avoid temptation to be swayed by public opinion.
  5. Police must recognise that the more cooperation they achieve from within the community, the less often they will need to use force to achieve compliance with law.
  6. Police must extend the same courtesy and respect to everyone regardless of economic or social status.
  7. The use of force and physical control is to be used as the last resort only when other forms of persuasion have failed.
  8. Police must remember they too are members of the public and their purpose is to serve and protect the public.
  9. The true measure of the effectiveness of any police force is not the number of arrests or police actions taken, but the absence of criminal conduct and violations of the law.

Any police officer that deviates from the Peelian Principles does not serve the purpose of being a police officer and therefore he/she needs to find another job because the public will continue to mistrust the police force and show resistance.

The increasing law and order problems in PNG are the end result of lack of leadership at all levels, wholesale condemnation of significant cultural values and practices, a bottle-neck education system and unprofessional conducts of police officers.
Therefore, to effectively address law and order problems requires strong leadership at all levels. Strong family units lead to stronger communities. There is a need for strong political will and commitment to electorates by politicians. MPs need to live in their electorates instead of living luxurious lives in Port Moresby.
Papua New Guineans need to be encouraged to restore significant cultural values, systems and practices to pass on invaluable knowledge and skills to the next generation which the education system cannot provide. Reform the education system in such a way to focus on producing productive citizens rather than on formal jobs that do not exist for every child.
And the police force needs to understand their primary mission and purpose of being in their uniforms and focus on doing more policing work instead of focusing on law enforcement.

  • Nible Dawa is a freelance writer