The right way for the Police is to know they have limits and they can be scrutinised
Police Commissioner Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho is absolutely right when he tells his officers that their authority is not absolute. They may be law enforcement officers but that does not give them an open licence or blank cheque to do whatever they want.
In the discharge of their duties, they must always recognise and respect the human rights of people they deal with and they cannot allow emotions to consume them and influence their decisions.
Brutality or the excessive use of violence should be avoided at all times. We know that sometimes it is difficult to draw the line when Police are dealing with violent suspects resisting arrest. They are allowed to use reasonable force to subdue a difficult suspect who has attitude and behavioural problems. It is the interpretation of what reasonable force means that gets Police in difficult waters sometimes. They have limits. If they comply with those limits then they cannot be accused of overstepping the mark or taking law into their own hands.
Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho agrees that some events over the years have cast a negative shadow over their institution, because some of them had forgotten the fact that their authority as law enforcement officers had limits. He was speaking at the opening of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner Human Rights Workshop at Southern Cross Hotel in Suva this week.
The Police reputation is just as good as their conduct. When they use unreasonable force, they are crossing the boundary into dangerous territory that is on the wrong side of the law. On that side, they have no grounds to defend themselves. They are on their own. It is hoped that the human rights training this week will help them eliminate those bad practices and hold on to the good ones. Brigadier-General Qiliho has admitted that that as an institution, their understanding and at times the adherence to the norms and principles of human rights have been both questionable and unacceptable.
He tells the officers: “This is a critical issue that we must understand irrespective of the rank you hold. I believe the reason why we are getting caught up in these situations is because we are failing to do the basics right.”
If all Police officers know their boundaries, they will always make the right decisions.
Under Brigadier-General Qiliho, the Police are gradually rebuilding their image. Before his appointment, the Police reputation was poor. Now, it continues to improve. Training like this week’s workshop has helped improve attitude and inject a spirit of positivity into the force. This in turn will strengthen public confidence in the force. As long as Police officers know and understand, that they cannot breach their rules of engagement, and that their conduct can come under scrutiny, they are heading in the right direction.
When they use unreasonable force, they are crossing the boundary into dangerous territory that is on the wrong side of the law. On that side, they have no grounds to defend themselves. They are on their own.