Corrupting the uniform

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The genesis of the big boys’ club within the royal Solomon Islands police

By Alfred Sasako

NO one could say for certain when the alleged “Big Boys’ Club” operating within the Royal Solomon Islands Police had actually started. The best guess is that it began towards the end of the 90s, 1997 to 1998 to be exact.

At the time British national Frank Short had just assumed the post of Commissioner of Police.

Mr Short’s appointment as an expatriate police commissioner was resented by most, if not all, of the senior police executive at the time because each of them had put in a bid for the top job themselves and, when their applications failed to materialise, they in turn asked the government for early retirement in the scheme then being considered by the Mamaloni administration.

When Mamaloni lost the 1997 general and the SIAC government assumed office, the early retirement scheme was abandoned and, according to the book Mr Short subsequently wrote about his time in leading the police service, (a book entitled ‘Policing a Clash of Cultures’ and available on Amazon Kindle’s book shelf), Mr Short had to work extremely hard to encourage and motivate his senior executive personnel to gain their active support.

He succeeded by displaying strong, caring leadership and helped by the chance of studying community policing methods in both Singapore and Japan which Mr Short personally arranged after making a personal visit to the Commissioner of the Singapore Police Force.

When the level of internal strife was beginning to pick up in late 1998 and later affecting just about every sector in the country the very top of the police executive were divided in their loyalties and some wanted the Commissioner to turn over police arms and ammunition to certain elements in the community, but Mr Short flatly rejected such moves and even went so far to have the police armoury strengthened and security controls tightened.

The internal strife boiled over and is now known as the Ethnic Tension but its beginnings were accurately predicted by Mr Short and early security intelligence reports given to the SIAC government and to regional governments.

In the 1997-98 period news also broke (also reported in Mr Short’s book) that senior members of the Royal Solomon Islands Police borrowed large amounts of money from the Police Club’s Credit Union without repaying their loans. Those with outstanding loans were members of the top echelon, otherwise known as the executive members of the Royal Solomon Islands Police.

(Frank refused to include the word “Force” in the Royal Solomon Islands Police, arguing it did not give a good image of a friendly policing regime).

The discovery of outstanding loans and Police Commissioner Short’s application of strict but fair discipline created a further rift between the Commissioner and his senior staff because Mr Short demanded the outstanding loans be repaid before he would sanction the promotion of those with outstanding money belonging to the Police Credit Union.

“I could trust very few of my senior staff with the exception of the Director of the Special Branch,” Mr Short said earlier this week.

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“In my time I maintained strict, but fair discipline and had a policy of interdicting anyone from duty on half pay if charged with a criminal charge by a court. The interdiction was only lifted and salary restored if acquitted, but even then some faced internal disciplinary action,” he said.

It would seem that disgruntled senior police officers took advantage of the situation during Mr Short’s time in office to “gang up” against him. The chaos of the Ethnic Tension and the disbanding of the Special Branch in 2004 only gave rise to consolidating the Big Boys’ Club and its activities.

Very few of the police commissioners who occupied the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) top post since Frank Short’s departure were aware of the existence of the Big Boys’ Club.

It was in early December last year (2017) that a former senior police officer confirmed the existence of the Big Boys’ Club, saying it was operating without the knowledge of the incumbent Mathew Varley.

Three other senior officers have since come forward to confirm the existence of the Big Boys Club, which they said operates in two areas – promotions and ignoring serious cases against Club members.

These officers said the existence of the Club has given rise to favouritism and nepotism within the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).

Police Commissioner Varley has denied both the existence of the Big Boys’ Club and allegation of unfair treatment of police officers in terms of applying discipline and promotion.

In an exclusive interview with Island Sun over the Christmas/New Year break, a senior police officer fighting his interdiction told of a sergeant who allegedly hit an elderly man in an early morning road accident in Noro.

“It was early one Saturday morning when the accident occurred. The old man spent several months in hospital, but the sergeant was never charged, let alone suspended from duty.

“Today, the man has been promoted to the rank of an Inspector,” the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

“He is still in the RSIPF, enjoying everything,” he said.

“There’s another case involving a sergeant in Gizo in 2012. This sergeant hit a school boy with a police baton on the head,” alleging the boy is now paralysed.

“But instead of charging him, the sergeant was retired. I believe this is wrong. Both men should face the consequences of the law for their actions.”

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