POLICE 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.”