I am not inclined to adopt a position on the valid questions posed by PNG Attitude commenters regarding measuring the results of the Australian Federal Police deployment in Papua New Guinea and whether it represents 'value for money'.
This is because, although I have been working with the AFP during my couple of shifts a week as an RPNGC [Police] reservist, my observations are those of an outsider who is not the object of their attention.
I have got to know about a dozen of the 30-odd officers who work in Port Moresby, either at Police Headquarters, Boroko Divisional Headquarters, around the suburban stations and at Bomana Police College.
And I can testify as to the quality and commitment of the individuals and their acceptance by PNG Constabulary rank and file.
It is true that “they advise, influence and provide material support where they can” and I have seen the benefits of this approach on the ground.
It is true that AFP personnel drive around in their own distinctively marked vehicles and do not accompany RPNGC personnel in Constabulary vehicles, but this is the only area where the two 'tribes' do not mix.
Foot patrols, manning the counter and responding to public complaints are all carried out by mixed groups, not to mention the training and mentoring that is part and parcel of the job of AFP personnel who are assigned to Prosecutions, CID, Fraud Squad, Logistics and so on.
It is often back room stuff that the public does not see.
The AFP even fall in on parade with their national counterparts. They made a good showing at the Dawn Service at Bomana last Anzac Day.
I guess the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. I was at Sir John Guise Stadium a few years back when practically every policeman in the National Capital District attended a meeting where they unanimously voted to cease working with the foreign police who were in PNG at the time.
This was a month before the PNG Judiciary ruled that the immunity of Australian police from prosecution before the PNG Courts was unconstitutional, which led to the closure of the previous program. But that intervention was dead in the water even before the Court ruling. It was just not working.
The present AFP contingent does not have police powers or immunity from anything, and perhaps that is why they have to pussyfoot around a bit.
But it hasn't made any difference; they appear to be very much welcomed by the troops and there is no sign of dissatisfaction from within the Constabulary. There is also a great deal of overt satisfaction expressed by the general public.
The only criticism I have heard comes from some of the expatriate community, who seem to think that coppers are not entitled to have lunch or a coffee break.
There was an armed robbery opposite Boroko Police Station a few months back. The response was immediate and included several AFP guys who quickly disarmed and captured the culprits. I believe they were told by their boss that they shouldn't have become involved. Well, the boss may not have been happy but it certainly went down well with the PNG coppers.
I put this two bob's worth in because, as an Australian, I must admit I am proud of those boys and girls. They are putting in a bloody good effort and it is appreciated.
Every town in PNG wants some AFP officers and for good reason. They are not just good police, they are excellent ambassadors.
Given the limited duration and conditions of their assignment, earth-shaking results cannot be expected. The long-term will require the recruitment of contract police who can put in 3-6 years, learn the language and be part of the Constabulary’s chain of command.