The right way for the Po­lice is to know they have lim­its and they can be scru­ti­nised

Fiji Sun - - Comment - NE­MANI DE­LAIBATIKI Feed­back: ne­mani.de­laibatiki@fi­jisun.com.fj

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.

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