Saturday, February 13, 2016

IS IT A NEW CHAPTER FOR THE RPNGC?

A look at how social media and mobile phones are transforming the thinking within the command  Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary...

It hasn’t been an easy road for the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) since the turn of the century.
With the increasing use of social media – especially Facebook –  and mobile technology,  many of the atrocities committed against ordinary citizens  by rogue members of the RPNGC  have come to the fore again and again. 
COP Gari Baki - Police Commissioner of Police
Images, once the stuff of “confidential” police reports to commanders,  are now being  placed in the public domain  accessible  on mobile handsets  to millions of Papua New Guineans.
University of Goroka student shot by police. Sent by Whatsapp.
The RPNGC has,  in the last five years, faced a steep learning curve.  With credibility eroded over decades, it has been difficult for commanders to win  back the trust and confidence of the public.  Anecdotal evidence pointed to profound weaknesses in action taken against members of the RPNGC by their own even when reported.
But for the first time in decades,  the masses  now have potent weapons at their disposal – the mobile phone and social media.  The chatter  on social media   has been too loud to ignore even for old school police commanders high up the police hierarchy.  The abuse that once happened in secret is now being exposed prompting many more people to come out with their own stories of similar abuse. 
Social media has complemented the  slow and sometimes painful changes in the RPNGC.
Body of Thomas Kela, carried to the police station by protesting relatives.
The establishment of the Police Media Unit staffed by former journalists has also been key in what appears to be an era of openness and a level acceptance of the ills within the RPNGC.
Journalists seeking responses  from the police for cases of  brutality have  been allowed direct access to  the police commissioner, provincial police commanders  and  various directorates obtain  responses  to allegations and evidence posted on social media.
After a period of instability,  the National Executive Council reappointed  Gari Baki, as police commissioner.  Baki appears to have returned with renewed zeal. 
In Ramu, Madang,  speaking during   a short interview after his first official engagement, he expressed that it upset him personally that  discipline in the RPNGC had drastically deteriorated with the lack of command and control.  He  predicted  drastic changes including   changes in commands and attitudes.  Within months, he announced new appointments and a restructuring of command zones  to make policing manageable in  Papua New Guinea.
Baki has been criticized for his handling of high profile cases including investigations relating to the Prime Minister and social media again has been merciless.  However, internally,  rogue officers  have borne the brunt of his administration’s wrath.
In 2015 alone,  39 officers  in  Port Moresby alone have either been arrested or suspended for investigations.    One of the most recent arrests have been of constables Jona Yawija and Jacklyn Tanda charged after with forcing a young  Port Moresby woman  to eat condoms.  The incident recorded on a mobile phone camera was posted on Facebook and eventually ended up in court as police evidence.
In Lae City, several more officers have been  arrested, suspended or jailed.  One of the most recent  was  Jack Baria, a mobile squad member sentenced  to 30 years in prison for the shooting of  Lae mother of two, Moana Pisim, in January 2015.   Social media  played a key role in providing evidence and pressuring the police command to act  accordingly.
Unlike in previous years,  personal mobile numbers of  top police officers including  the NCD Metropolitan Commander,  Benjamin Turi,  have been posted  on Facebook  to allow the public to report police abuse directly to the commanders.
In Lae City, stakeholders including the Chamber of Commerce are in constant contact with the Metropolitan Commander, Anthony Wagambie,  via a Whatsapp group,  SMS, emails and Facebook.
At the reopening of the Joint Services College in Lae, a senior police officer based in Port Moresby, said he wanted reports of police brutality reported as they  happened.
“I don’t care if the reports are negative against the  police force,” he said. “Commanders can’t be everywhere and we depend heavily on the media to tell us in brutal honesty, what our men and women are doing.”

Ends…



           

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