PNG Police Suffer from Bad Leadership – An Anonymous Member of the Force Speaks Out


By An Anonymous Member of the Royal PNG Constabulary

No police service anywhere in the world can meet the high expectations and demands of the people they swore to serve and protect. The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary is no different however, statistics on the claims against the state for damages and atrocities in the past and especially the recent killing of a mother in Lae and the Hanuabada incident allegedly by members of the Constabulary show that the RPNGC has gone wayward in terms of how it is conducting police business. Of all the issues that are contributing to the rise of this trend, none has a more devastating effect than the issue of Leadership within the entire organization.

Most of the commanders, supervisors and leaders in the Police Service are of bad quality. In the front line (Public Safety, Traffic, Response unit, Mobile squad etc.) most of the Section commanders and supervisors are old. They have not been keeping up with changes and so their knowledge about police work is outdated. Some of the younger supervisors you would expect to be of a better quality are the same as their older comrades. Supervising a police unit is an enormous yet simple job.

In a nutshell, the tasks of a front-line supervisor are as follows:

  1. Define Objectives,
  2. Come up with a strategy,
  3. Deploy resources,
  4. Command and control,
  5. Evaluate,
  6. Re-Strategise if necessary.

But the supervisors we now have in the RPNGC cannot do these tasks because they lack knowledge. As a matter of fact, many of the Chief Superintendents down to the First Constables have a thinking capacity that is so stagnant that they cannot conceive a bright new idea or initiative.

When I say ‘knowledge’ I am not talking about certificates, diplomas and degrees. There are people in the Force, even in the management ranks, who have such credentials but are hopeless, unproductive liabilities to the Organization. I’m talking about the competency level required to realise what the objectives are and be able to diligently and effectively strive to achieve these objectives and accept responsibility for failures and misconducts on the part of their manpower.

By their omissions, leaders in the RPNGC have failed in their mission. To lead, direct and correct. They are not taking corrective measures to ensure their subordinates stay in line. Trivial matters are being overlooked and in time members begin to regard the bad practices as the norm. Take for instance, the habit of wearing baseball caps instead of a proper, approved Police head gear with the uniform shirt and trousers. No one is trying to correct this and as a result younger officers are practicing it too.

Members are drinking and destroying their accommodations and nothing is being done. Even though most people don’t come forward and complain about the police beating them up, no one has been reprimanded for assaulting a member of the public. No one has been disciplined for swearing at people. I have not seen an officer being reprimanded for habitually being late for duty. These are just some of the offences supervisors regard as trivial or simply disregard and by doing so encourage such bad behaviour to flourish. In the work front, ignorant leaders are not monitoring the performances of their subordinates to see if they are dispensing quality and productive work.

Due to the lack of sound and decisive leadership in the frontline and at the top management level to ensure command and control, officers are doing their own thing. They are discharging firearms negligently, they are demanding fees for services, they are helping to smuggle betelnut into Port Moresby, they are stealing cell phones from people, and they are collecting bribes from traffic offenders and letting them go. They are mean towards distressed victims, they are reading the daily in the office while some one is waiting to be served, they are wrecking police cars and getting away with it, they are swearing at passengers in motor vehicles, they are sexually abusing female offenders. Members are practicing polygamy but the senior officers responsible cannot act because they themselves have two or more wives or mistresses.

On top of this, Provincial Police Commanders(PPC), Police Station Commanders (PSC) and the Mobile Squad group commanders are contributing to this dilemma by not doing their job of removing the incompetent leaders in the frontline and replacing them with competent officers. Commanders in the Police have lost their sense of responsibility. Senior officers in the top management are afraid of even constables because these little men have political connections so they keep them for their own benefit. A classic example is the Special Services Division. Men who were removed from the mobile squads for bad conduct are still being retained by the Group commanders without a position and they are filling up the corridors, waiting to do odd jobs like escorting Asians and people who have the money to buy them food and drinks and the group commanders are being paid kick-backs.

These are the kind of Officers young pass-outs from Bomana are going to be learning police work under after they graduate. I don’t have to say what the implications are. Bomana is doing a good job, but the disease is out here. In less than a week Probationary Constables catch it. There is no one out here in the field to mentor, correct and conduct on the job training for young, energetic and enthusiastic officers who are fresh from Bomana. Because so, they start following in the footsteps of their senior colleagues, thus the downward spiraling course is maintained.

Successive commissioners have neglected the ongoing training and retraining of its frontline and middle managers and the men as a whole. As a result, these managers have nil human resource management skills and the men cannot perform effectively within the confines of the law. The decentralised training cells in the provinces are dormant. There are courses that can be conducted for supervisors but there is no money to conduct these courses. Most of the young constables in the mobile squads have not undergone tactical training. They have nil indoor and outdoor armed combat skills. Some section commanders in the mobile squads and the response teams have had nil training on how to plan and conduct an offensive or defensive mission. The reason is always the same. NO MONEY!

If the RPNGC is serious about improving its image to bring back public confidence, the commissioner must immediately do the following:

  1. Make redundant all old officers
  2. Test all supervisors for competency and remove all who fail and appoint new supervisors.
  3. Rewrite job descriptions for supervisors and commanders
  4. Fund all decentralised training programs.
  5. Charge with negligence, and remove PPCs and PSCs who fail to ensure that their various sections are led by competent commanders
  6. Charge and dismiss PPCs, PPCs and all other commanders who fail to ensure discipline is maintained in their domain.
  7. All PSCs and PPCs must sign a contract and deliver or have their contracts revoked and they be removed. This will ensure leadership and accountability is strengthened in the frontline.
  8. Amend the appropriate legislations to create an independent body for investigating the police.
  9. Immediately get an independent group to commence collecting reports of official corruption in the RPNGC and investigate and weed out corrupt officers.

The police-public relationship will not improve unless the RPNGC addresses its leadership problem immediately because its men and women have lost direction due to poor supervision. We are here to Protect and Serve the public but we will continue to recycle bad behaviour until the Government looks seriously at the management and HR issues of the RPNGC.