Policing without guns and the concept of community policing.
I was struck by a story relayed by Radio New Zealand today which told of how the soldiers, men and women, of the New Zealand Defence Force helped to restore peace to Bougainville with the help of traditional Maori culture and innovative community style peace measures.
The story was of particular interest to me for a special reason which I will explain.
In early 1998, I attended a regional security conference in New Zealand and during the formal dinner at the end of the conference I was sitting next to a senior New Zealand diplomatic who turned to me at one point during the meal and asked, “How would you go about helping to end the trouble in Bougainville?
Now 21 years on since that occasion, I believe it would be no breach of confidentiality to reveal the answer I gave to the question.
I replied that I thought the answer to helping to restore peace in Bougainville was to introduce community style policing, as I had first introduced at home, in the Solomon Islands, in 1997.
“I think you are right,” said the diplomat.
Today’s story from Radio New Zealand explains how the NZ Defence Forces used guitars, not guns, to help bring about peace and an end to the bloody conflict decade-long civil conflict.
In 1997, as the newly arrived Commissioner of Police in the Solomon Islands, I set about introducing a community policing programme across the country and personally made visits to several communities in the Honiara areas and, once to Gizo in the Western Province and to Auki and Loina in Malaita Province.
At Loina the community built their own small community police post and another followed at Point Cruz in Honiara.
In those years police numbers were about 750 overall and far short of the authorised establishment of 1000 for the whole country and consequently the development of community policing policy was limited by a lack of personnel, transport and communications equipment.
Faced with such limitations, an appeal I raised with the British and New Zealand High Commissioners brought about the re-building of the White River Police Post in early 1998.
The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Band played a very significant part in community policing initiatives and the members entertained large numbers of communities, including those at St Joseph’s Mission and in the Gold Ridge Mine area.
Policing in the Solomon Islands is best served without the use of guns and I am pleased to know that it is the case today, with the exception of those police personnel that have been specially selected and trained to use firearms in the course of their duties relating to public order control and the personnel protection duties relating to the personal safety of His Excellency the Governor- General and the Prime Minister, but with orders for the use of minimum force, if arms have to be resorted to.
Such was always my desire as the former Commissioner of Police and I regret to this day how civil conflict arose so tragically just a few months before my leaving the Solomons and prevented the progress that had been made in police reform, restructuring of the service and the full development of community policing that held the key to stability and peaceful cooperation across all communities.