Dear Editor,

It has fallen to the Deputy Commissioner of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF), Walter Kola, to give a considered welcome to the news announced by the Hon. Prime Minister, Gordon, Darcy Lilo and his Foreign Affairs Minister, Clay Forau, that the Government will vigorously pursue an offer from the United Nations for Solomon Islands Police Officers to be deployed on UN missions abroad very soon.

Mr. Kola has called for an interim, thorough assessment of the Government's proposal and for discussions with the Prime Minister, citing there would be "implications" for the RSIPF if the best and most experienced officers were to be deployed on UN Missions abroad, undoubtedly because the RSIPF has a relatively tiny cadre of senior, qualified personnel but a huge operational mandate.

The current debate provides an opportunity to draw attention to what is the democratic control of the police service in the Solomon Islands and for politicians to be mindful of the operational independence of the Commissioner of Police and his management team.

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 structure of government.

The Commissioner of Police, however, and his management 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 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 elected political leaders and the police service.

Whether or not the future will see Solomon Islands police officers join UN Missions abroad, Mr Kola is right to seek further discussions regarding the possible operational deployment of his officers' and it might have been more appropriate for both the Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister, however done with the best intentions, not to have publically announced the proposed operational deployment of RSIPF officers to the UN without, seemingly, not having properly consulted the Commissioner of Police.

Yours sincerely,

Frank Short