The most heavily discussed issue over the last 7 days has been the release of 100 over convicts and the subsequent rise in criminal activities in Male’. This issue has put immense pressure on the law enforcement arm, MPS. In a press briefing held by the organization, one of my colleagues made quite a statement on this issue that has sparked some controversy. My stand on his statement is that it was too political and was formed from a legal perspective rather than from a policing perspective. I do not intend to deliberate on that statement or the effects due to the release of these convicts under a parole or presidential pardon. My concern here is of the policing context and I will try to give insight on some of the issues that are to some extent hindering the functionality of MPS. Although I have been away from the operational policing function since 2004, I am in touch with officers who are in frontline policing who shares their concerns with me.
It is not a secret that the frontline police officers are resentful towards the different levels of management in MPS. A comment left by an anonymous police officer on one of the articles published on the internet version of Haveeru Daily (14th Dec 2008) is bare evidence to it. The component, Capital Police, responsible for policing Male’ feels that they are too burdened with the job without adequate breaks and believes that they are being treated unfairly when other components within MPS get to enjoy breaks. This is of great risk to MPS if the frontline officers are fed up or unwilling to perform their duties. It is imperative that the organization look into these issues seriously and find better solutions.
Mindset and Culture
I recall what John Robertson, a retired Scottish police officer said in his 2006 Review Report on the Capital Police. He described our policing as to the like of ‘fire station policing’ which means our approach is very reactive. It is pointless to mention the recommendations he put in that report which I don’t see getting implemented much. My assessment is that we still are reactive to incidences of crime and have this traditional culture of asking the superior for every single step that needs to be taken at the tactical level of frontline policing. We need to move away from this practice and empower the constables to make decisions so that they get more involved and take initiative in the efforts to prevent crime. The supervisory levels in the frontline policing need to have better working relationship with the officers out on the streets and constantly guide them during their pre and post duty briefs to encourage initiative and self discretion.
Restructuring and redeployment
I cannot exercise the liberty of revealing how many of MPS’ officers are dedicated to frontline policing when we still have a culture in that we believe revelation of figures is a ‘sin’. All I can say is we have a pretty good police to public ratio and the land area we have to cover as you all know is very small. My assessment is that MPS have too many officers dedicated for support functions and there always has been a need to allocate and deploy more officers into frontline policing. During the formation stages to become a separate entity from the old NSS, we have copied the MNDF’s organizational structure with very slight modifications. We still have positions filled in by sworn police officers that can either be replaced by civilian workers or merged into another function. The likes of uniform section, catering section, administrative units have too many trained and sworn police officers issuing uniform items or doing desk jobs rather than being on the streets to fight crime. I believe there is a need to review our resource deployment and restructure the organization to cater for an effective policing strategy that focuses on frontline policing.
Unlike ACP Abdulla Riyaz’s version of elite force, I call the officers in MPS with sound academic background who are energetic, ever enthusiastic and who can put innovation into MPS if opportunity is given, the real elite of the organization. We have some of the best of people in the nation to steer MPS towards the direction our people want to see us going. Whatever the reason may be, we have recruited or have attracted people who holds good academic credentials suiting to our organizational development. Why cannot we make the most of these people for reviewing our current practices and seek innovative ways for effective policing, regardless of the ranks they hold? We have so many advisory boards within MPS in which senior officers dedicate their valuable time discussing on the simplest issues like the size of water bottle officers are allowed to drink. My belief is that if we make the most use of these scholarly practitioners that we have in MPS, we can move towards change, innovation and effectiveness.
In light of the above issues, I believe we are not well placed to criticize the government’s decision to release some 116 convicts into Male’. I agree that we are one party that needs to be consulted when making such a decision. Even if the government’s decision is irrational or conflicting with laws, we cannot whine about it. It is the parliament’s job to decide on the legitimacy of that decision. Our job is to reassure our people that restoring safety and security is what we are going to do. It is a good sign that we have begun Stop and Searches in Male’, Villingili and HulhuMale’ and the introduction of an old but effective concept like ‘Dhanmaanu’ (an additional patrol shift consisting of police officers from other support departments) is commended. However, we do not have to put Superintendents and Chief Inspectors on the streets to do frontline policing. Considering the points highlighted above, they can devise a sustainable strategy to deter and reduce crime using intelligence as a critical tool. We must not act alone to devise this strategy as we are only a component that is most visible in the whole criminal justice system. We have to draw our partners in the system to work on a strategy that would make our societies safe, secure and tolerant. Before doing that, we need to clean our own backyard.