THE online webpage of the Solomon Star newspaper continues to feature an editorial piece, first published on 16 November 2017, relating to an allegation of unlawful detention and assault by the RSIPF reported by two youths.
Without going into the specifics of the allegations made the story raises in my mind whether or not it is time to introduce legislation in the Solomon Islands that governs the major part of police powers over and above the statutory provisions relating to police contained in the existing Police Act and Regulations.
The reputation and standing of the re-built RSIPF cannot be allowed to be sullied by allegations of misconduct but, equally, misconduct that is proven cannot be allowed to go unpunished.
In 1997 I issued this order to the then members of the police service to try to ensure proper conduct, both on and off duty.
“It is the duty of every member of the Force to cultivate good relations with all sections of the public, and always to bear in mind that, where such relations do not exist, police officers work under a severe handicap and cannot therefore. be fully efficient,
“In their daily dealings with the public, police officers are often required to exercise firmness, and sometimes obliged to resort to force in the exercise of their duty. Firmness, however, must be tempered by tact, patience and good humour, and any force used must be the minimum necessary to secure compliance with the law.
“Members of the Force have special powers not possessed by the ordinary citizen, and it is of the utmost importance that these powers should be used with discretion and forbearance. Harsh or oppressive conduct, incivility, and the use of unnecessary violence can in no circumstances be justified or tolerated, and are punishable offences against discipline.
“Members of the Force must avoid altercations of any nature. If an officer is wantonly assaulted he has the legal power to arrest his assailant.
“Arguments with members of the public on matters of duty must be carefully avoided; it rarely convinces anyone and naturally irritates persons smarting under some real or imaginary grievance.
“All ranks must, moreover, constantly remember that one offender in this respect may give a bad name to the police generally, and that a display of surliness or ill-humour, or the harsh or oppressive use of authority, by one police officer may have the adverse effects of a far-reaching nature on the Force as a whole.”
In 1984, in the UK, the government introduced The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
This Act is commonly referred to as PACE and it governs the police powers of investigation, including arrests, detention, interrogation, entry and search of premises and the taking of samples.
Quoting from In Brief.co uk, a leading legal website, the legislation contains PACE Codes of Practice, which police officers should consider and refer to when carrying out various procedures associated with their work
The Act attempts to strike a fair balance between the exercise of power by those in authority and the rights of members of the public.
There are 8 Codes of Practice laid down in the Act.
“Failure by a police officer to adhere to the Codes of Practice does not render them liable to criminal or civil proceedings. However, their failure to adhere to what the Codes state can be introduced as evidence in civil and criminal proceedings (PACE, s 67). Additionally, any evidence obtained by the police in relation to the investigation of any criminal offence where they have failed to adhere to PACE, can be deemed inadmissible in court thus harming the case against the defendant.”