The National, Wednesday February 24th, 2016
NATIONAL Capital District Governor Powes Parkop still insists that residents and visitors in the capital city show respect and appreciation for the work done by the NCDC’s urban safety division.
Parkop is gravely concerned that NCDC’s safety officers have become victims of verbal abuse and threats of physical violence by people who do not understand and appreciate the nature of their work.
The governor was incensed by a recent incident where a vendor threw a stone that broke the windscreen of a NCDC vehicle on a routine buai (betel nut) ban patrol.
NCDC officers and police from the nearby police station returned with reinforcement and threatened to shut down the market indefinitely if vendors did not meet the cost of the damage.
The vendors claimed that they had lost hundreds of kina worth of goods during the police raid and ensuing melee.
While it remains unclear who incited the trouble, we agree with the governor that the public must bear some responsibility for the unruly actions of one or more of its members.
Moreover, residents must appreciate the risks that NCDC officers take to keep the nation’s capital safe and clean every day.
“Many times the public causes problems but seeks the cover of rights and innocence,” Parkop said.
“The NCDC safety officers were unarmed – no weapons or guns. There was no need to attack them with stones while they were doing their jobs.”
Like the regular police force, NCDC’s law-enforcement units have become the ire of city residents following the fatal shooting of two Hanuabada villagers allegedly by their reservists early this year.
As well, rough-and-tough tactics deployed by city rangers to enforce the buai ban have made matters worse for City Hall.
Undoubtedly, City Hall’s public image has been severely tainted, hence Parkop’s call for residents to change their perception of their law-enforcement units.
However, it will take more than the governor’s call to convince residents that NCDC safety officers are not their enemies but are merely doing their jobs to keep the capital city safe and clean.
Most residents are law-abiding people who want to live and work in a peaceful and clean city but there is a minority who will always disturb such an environment.
City Hall will need to concentrate its efforts on this group, possibly through awareness campaigns, to try and change their behaviour and conduct in public places.
As the governor rightly said, we must respect one another to create a peaceful city.
We also agree with Parkop that the media must be objective and neutral in their news coverage of conflicts between the public and law enforcement agencies.
“Media must know that public is not always right in any incidents.
“Media needs to balance their stories by telling the public the truth about any incident in the city regarding NCDC officers and the public.
“To do that, the media has a responsibility and that is to balance the story by consulting both parties of any conflict before running the story.”
Indeed, the ball is in the media’s court to ensure fair and balanced news coverage of such conflicts and incidents.
Interestingly, the governor blamed the increase in car-jackings, bad-snatching, grievous bodily harm and assault cases in the city last year on the decision by former Police Commissioner Geoffrey Vaki to disband the NCDC reservists unit.
He said a lot of petty crimes that regular police could not deal with were handed by the reservists when they were operational.
While Vaki’s decision was hailed by city residents, it has left a void in the NCDC operations to maintain order and cleanliness in the city, especially its efforts to police the buai ban.
The unruly behaviour of reservists coupled with a decline in discipline and use of brute force by regular police against civilians had added insult to injury.
Thus, the decision was made to disband reservists.
Fortunately, the arrival of Benjamin Turi as new NCD Metropolitan Superintendent in October last year saw drastic changes in police discipline and improved law and order in the capital city.
Nonetheless, NCDC still needs to reinforce its city rangers concept but with properly trained personnel to take on the job of the reserve police unit.