The reference in the SIBC evening news bulletin on the 4th October that recent police reforms in Tonga could provide lessons for Solomon Islands is "old hat" and the reforms which have been recently introduced in Tonga were already put in place in the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) in 1998.
Following my appointment as the Commissioner of the RSIPF, I established a Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) which was modelled on a successful unit that I had experience of during my previous service in the Royal Hong Kong Police.
The police in the Solomon Islands operate as an arm of government, with powers that are allocated to them by the public, through the democratic process. They are therefore obliged to exercise their powers in accordance with the views of the public, who are represented through a democratic process in the structures of government.
The RSIPF Commissioner, and his executive team, are responsible for operational decision making and for the implementation of policy, but the democratically elected political leaders are required to give direction, guidance and support to the police service as a whole.
The professional integrity of the police must, however, be respected by the political leaders and, likewise, the police must respect the authority of the democratically elected representatives of the people.
The principles of consultation, negotiation, transparency and accountability must apply to both the elected political leaders and the police service.
A police commissioner must ensure the police service is fully accountable and that professional ethics be informed by international standards of police professionalism.
In practicing its accountability to the community, the police service should not only hear one voice. It must be sensitive to the needs of special interest groups, like the young, the unemployed, the infirm and the aged, but especially to those most vulnerable to crime.
In the Solomons policing must increasingly focus on community consultation. Communities must be encouraged to engage, once more, with their local police about their problems and priorities. If consultation is effective, it will result in improvements to the quality of police services, but also in greater public legitimacy and acceptance of the RSIPF.
The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force must, once again, become a dynamic and accessible service, which is known for the professionalism, skill and effectiveness of its members.
The executive level, too, must be manned by wholly motivated personnel committed to achieving this vision, and who are not afraid of shouldering responsibility and promoting change.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of Frank Short and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.
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