In modern Papua New Guinea, the policeman is expected to be a leader and set the example for the community to follow. During its 107 years of service the ‘Constabulary’ as it is affectionately known, has seen many changes.
Currently, in 1995, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary has a manpower strength of 5000 men and women in the Regular Constabulary Branch, 900 in the Reserve and 1200 in the Community Auxiliary Police Branch. They serve the entire population of PNG – four million people scattered in town and country across the length and breadth of the nation.
PNG’s first police service was established in British Papua in 1884 to protect settlers and to introduce law and order. The success of the Papuan model was noted by the Imperial administration in German New Guinea and soon there emerged an armed ‘Expedition Troop’ to protect their small outposts that they were establishing in coastal areas and inland waterways. Both forces were paramilitary in nature, constables were armed with rifles and training was generally conducted along military lines by
European officers and NCO’s.
In 1939 King George the Sixth honoured the Papuan force with the title ‘Royal’ for the outstanding work done during the early years of pacification of the country. During World War Two members of the police served with distinction and after that a single force for the whole country was established.
Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, armed police accompanied and protected administration patrols into the most remote and wildest parts of PNG. It was during this time, in towns and urban areas, that the more usual police role began to emerge with new aids and responsibilities including motor traffic patrols, communications, dog patrols and CID investigations.
In 1971 the Bomana Police Training College stepped up the training of commissioned officers, NCO’s and recruits. In the run up to Independence massive inputs in police numbers and police capability were made. New police stations, barracks and police houses were built. The Constabulary led the way for other government departments in fulfilling the national goal of ‘localising’ positions filled by expatriate contract officers. By Independence national officers were holding the top command positions of the Constabulary including that of Police Commissioner.
The 20 years since Independence have not been easy for the Constabulary or for the men and women who serve in its ranks. The Clifford report in the mid-80’s was damning in its conclusions. It said that a lack of training, improper supervision and inadequate resources “deny police a fighting chance against most crimes”. Further, it said that police in towns had become isolated in their barracks and had lost the confidence of the community. They began to be seen as an alien force which sallied out on punitive raids.
In recent years, the Constabulary has adopted the concept of “community policing” where a greater emphasis is placed on dialogue and consensus with communities rather than the harsh ways of olden times. It is finding different ways in which it can work in partnership, discussing specific community law and order problems and listening to the community’s ideas and input of how the police and the people can work together to find a solution to local crime problems.
In these modern times the police emphasis worldwide is shifting from ‘who-dun-it’ to crime prevention. The Constabulary is abreast of the latest developments in this field and is a regional leader in some aspects of community policing.
The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary put out this statement: “As we stand together to celebrate this observance of 20 years of Independence, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary is ready to serve the government and the people of Papua New Guinea to help us gain our national goals of law and order, when we can truly be One community, One Nation, One People”.