Small Arms, Bomb Squad and the Elite Force!!!

In a very recent function held to give away certificates of appreciation in recognition of Special Operations Command (SOC) and Dignitary Protection Unit’s hard work during recent operations, ACP Riyaz talked of two things; carrying fire arms (small arms) and establishing a Bomb Squad in 2009. He also praised the SOC by referring to them as “the Elite Force” of MPS. Understandably, they were the hardest hit component as far as the outcome of the presidential election is concerned. Praising SOC to this level is not my concern, however the issue of carrying fire arms (small arms) and establishing a Bomb Squad is; and I hope that this concern is shared by the nation as well.

The new Police Act empowers police to carry and use fire arms in times of need. Even then the questions are; do we need to have our officers carrying fire arms? Based on what assessment or estimate are we making this move? It has only been 4 years since MPS’ establishment and we have a lot to achieve in order to become a full fledged police organization. For me, acquiring fire arms and specializing in an area such as bomb defusing, does not fall under that. I believe that we have not successfully instilled the very principles of policing in the minds of a majority of our officers. Issuing these officers with fire arms or to the least ‘less lethal weapons’ would be an inappropriate move at this stage. I myself have experienced how they use the very minimum force in situations requiring the application of force. One might argue that the current volatility in terms of security in the nation requires us to move towards this paramilitaristic approach. I would counter this argument by saying we already have an organization by the name of MNDF to collaborate with us in such times where we have to resort to the use of excessive force in the interest of public safety or national security.

MPS and Interoperability

I believe interoperability is what we need to have with MNDF or other such services or agencies concerning national security, law enforcement, emergency or crisis management. We need to draw up strategies, plans and protocols and not just leave them on shelves but also put them into practice by rehearsing and revising. If the MNDF are unwilling to follow this path as talked by many, then it is the government or parliament’s role to step in to make sure that happens. If a piece of legislation is required to make this work then be it. Our nation is poor and the world community is sliding into the depths of a recession which would surely have a heavy impact on our economy as well. Keep in mind that economic security is the top most issue now in the world front.

The big question

In light of all this my question again is, why should the MPS duplicate resources or waste money on buying fire arms or invest in specializing on areas that the state already have? Why can’t we just think of alternative strategies and optimize resources in hand.

What’s your stand or opinion on this issue, reader?

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MPS’ Way Forward: The next step

My last post under the heading, “the next Commissioner of Police”, attracted many readers both within MPS and the public. As an officer committed for progression, the discussions that generated on this issue brought me contentment. Now that we have learned how people view the leadership change, we can leave the new government to decide on that and I intend to move forward to deliberate on the next step.

A New Police Reform Campaign …

If I am not misinformed, to a huge extent, the police reform initiative has come from within MPS since its establishment in 2004. I am not disregarding the focus on improving policing services in the 7th National Development Plan here. My argument is that this reform initiative can be best if it is one that is directed, processed and implemented by the Home Ministry rather than one coming out of MPS. What I am talking here about is the Police Reform initiative which I believe has to be reviewed by the new government. The President, Home Ministry and the Police Integrity Commission are those whom MPS report to or who have the oversight responsibility over MPS’ performance.

If the new government identifies that there are areas that need to undergo reform, I think it would be wise to launch a well crafted New Police Reform campaign. This campaign must involve all key stakeholders and must be led by the Home Ministry. One way to do is to have a person with a relevant background who holds a senior position, perhaps a deputy minister from the Home Ministry, to head a “Police Reform Committee”. This committee can comprise of representative(s) from the Police Integrity Commission, MPS, the relevant parliamentary committee, the Home Ministry and other concerned authorities. Based on the areas identified by the government, the intent of this campaign/committee would be to draw up strategies and action plans, coordinate and oversee the implementation of reform activities.

I have few areas in my sight that MPS need to improve on which I choose not to discuss here for obvious reasons but I will do so on an appropriate platform, when time comes. Therefore, I invite readers to share their concerns, ideas or views on the issue on hand.

You, as a MPS officer or a member of the public, what do you want from MPS in the future? This can be with regards to how MPS can improve its services or the public expectations towards MPS.

MPS’ Way Forward: the next Commissioner of Police?

With the new government taking charge on 11th November 2008, it is certain that the strategic leadership at MPS would undergo some major changes. This in fact is crucial for the MDP led coalition government, given the important role police plays in the nation. Police are responsible for the internal security of the nation; prevention and investigation of crime and the maintenance of public peace and harmony. The outgoing government had CP Adam Zahir in-charge of the police function for almost two decades now. MPS have always been finger-pointed for being politicized, heavy-handed, being used as a tool to repress opposition figures, voices and actions. Therefore, to replace or retain the existing Commissioner of Police would be one among the new government’s important decisions to make.

Do we need this change?

If change was what the incoming government promised to the people, then change it must be. As highlighted above, the role police play is crucial and in my view more crucial (in the current security context) than of the MNDF, especially at this transitional stage. MPS has been embedded with a culture that does not suit to a democracy. Therefore, it hinders the full functionality of the organization which ultimately affects its customers i.e. the public, and damages their trust and confidence in MPS. The current culture in MPS as I have highlighted in my commentaries, is traditional, too hierarchical, militaristic and organization centered. What we need to have in place is, a change oriented and visionary leadership, less hierarchical structure, discretionary police officers, customer focused approach, more accountability and transparency and above all, an overarching modern philosophy of policing that is not rhetoric but put into action and that can also be measured.

The talk

Who would become the Commissioner of Police in Mohamed Nasheed’s government? This is the question that is on every police officer’s mind these days. There are ongoing rumors within the circles of MPS that I would like to discuss here.

Rumor 1: Mohamed Nasheed wants CP Adam Zahir to remain in the post.

My opinion: Highly unlikely.

Rumor 2: Given the ties ACP Abdulla Riyaz has with Mr. Qasim Ibrahim, he is the strongest candidate to become the successor of CP Adam Zahir.

My opinion: Probable. Leave aside the ties. Being the most “blessed” and also one of the most capable senior officers at MPS, ACP Riyaz has the potential to take over. The question is whether the new government would take him as the RIGHT officer to put in-charge!

Rumor 3: SDCP (Retired) Ibrahim Latheef being called in for the job.

My opinion: Probable and recommended. Currently based in Perth, Australia, Ibrahim Latheef is well qualified for the job. The experience and academic credentials that he holds, puts him in a much stronger position than ACP Riyaz to lead MPS. While the reasons for his resignation are still unclear to me, there are many who believe that Ibrahim Latheef could steer MPS in the right direction of modern policing.

If this is my call …

I have two recommendations for the MDP led coalition government on the issue of putting a leader at MPS. If my recommendations are incompatible with the existing Police Act, then I suggest the necessary amendments be made.

Recommendation 1:

Bring in a totally new person into MPS, who has a strong academic, leadership background and vast experience in public service. He/She has to be a no-nonsense, change oriented and a person with good temperament and judgment.

Recommendation: 2

Hire a foreign senior police officer from the UK or Australia for a term of 4 years to fill in the post of the commissioner. His responsibility must be to over haul the current structures and change the managerial and cultural philosophy in MPS that would suit for a democratic police set up. During his tenure he would have to identify a senior officer that he would mentor to take over from him.

It has been a practice in recent times to borrow or hire highly professional police officers from overseas. One case is of an Assistant Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Andy Hughes who took charge as the Commissioner of Police of the Fiji Police Force.

Rationale

My rationale for these two recommendations is articulated above, under the sub heading: Do we need this change. What I believe is, with the existing leadership in MPS, it would be difficult to implement much needed changes. MPS had the opportunity to foster its organizational and policing philosophy, but it was not received or taken well. For me, so far the change that MPS’ leaders talk about is mere cosmetic and never truly happened. It is understandable that change is not an easy thing to bring in. MPS became a separate entity in September 2004 and has achieved significant advancements. What it has not achieved so far is public trust and confidence. Professional, impartial and ethical policing services are not resembled by our vehicles, uniform, gear or technology, nor FBI Academy graduates. Now that the people who have most alleged MPS of being politicized are in power, the government represented by this people need to bring in these changes. To start with, put the right people in charge at this right time to steer MPS at the right direction.

An era of CHANGE!

Mohamed Nasheed: Political activist-turned-Head of State
Photo sources: Google Images & President’s Office website

President elect, Mohamed Nasheed isn’t a new face for MPS officers. In his efforts to bring democracy to Maldives since 1990, the security institutions of the state, namely MPS and MNDF, acted to hinder his political aspirations. The rationale was that his aspirations and actions were in conflict with the laws of the land. We have witnessed heavy handedness or disproportionate use of force by members of these institutions on those who opposed Maumoon’s government. Those images are still afresh in our minds.

In my police career, I have met Mohamed Nasheed on two different occasions. In the first (a day Mohamed Nasheed got summoned to police), I was given an order by a high ranking officer to escort Nasheed to one of the interviewing cubicles on the first floor of MPS Headquarters. He showed resistance and on my superior’s order I had to use “soft hand technique” to escort him there and after climbing the third step of the staircase, he asked me to let go of his hand and I complied. The second was in 2007, the day masses gathered at the New Cemetery in the case of Hussain Solah’s death. I stood in the middle of the crowd and Nasheed was standing inches away from by face and said many things with anger. I just stood there without saying a word. The same day I had to order a subordinate who held Nasheed’s collar to leave him and put hand cuffs if he had orders instead of using unnecessary force. What I am trying to highlight here is that most officers working in the frontline would have met Nasheed in political rallies or in so called public disorder situations. We have to admit the fact that in some instances we misused our powers (powers that were not even legitimized then).

On 11th November 2008, Mohamed Nasheed would become the helmsman of our beloved nation. He would become the chief commander of the MNDF and MPS. Not many would have predicted this to happen. Therefore it is necessary for MPS officers to accept our new leader, the leader who promised us prosperity, the leader who became a leader after a long struggle as a political activist.

This should be a lesson for us to learn. A lesson that tells us policing is a job that requires one to be fair and conscious. Police not only have legal powers but discretionary powers. This is where we put our minds into and not just say “YES Sir” to every order we get from a superior. We can’t just swing our batons or spray the OSC on people’s eyes. This kind of irrational and unprofessional attitude and behaviour has given nothing but hatred from our own people and the brand name “Golhaa Force”. Our actions have to be proportionate, legal, and necessary and for that we have to be accountable. We are obliged to protect people not a regime. There are still many people in MPS who believe this kind of approach is “soft policing”. I say to them Wake Up! This is the era of change. Policing paradigms are changing and nations are looking into innovative ways to keep their people safe from contemporary threats. This is done by wide consultation with all stakeholders. The notion, “policing is of the people by the people for the people” is not just a lofty ideal that one must recite like a mantra. It is also an ideal that can be achieved when we work together for that ideal. We can’t just stick to the traditional, hierarchical and militaristic philosophy and culture that we borrowed from NSS.

MPS officers, stop calling yourselves “Ganjaa Force” and awaken into this new era of change. The nation has just embraced democracy so we better gear up for a democratic policing paradigm. It is in the interest of the nation you serve, not in individuals or a group that you like.

Presidential Election Campaigning in MPS?

After almost a four month absence from here, I am back. A busy final semester and the decision not to dwell on controversial issues kept me away. Despite these, a very disturbing issue has unearthed. The issue of campaigning for and against presidential candidates inside MPS.

In recent days there have been both covert and overt campaigning or propaganda to influence officers to incline to or go against a particular candidate. Talk of commissioned officers, text messaging subordinates to influence their voting right has become common. A rumor of a very high ranking officer having a disagreement with a non-commissioned officer in the canteen, over the winning percentage of presidential candidates in the run-off election is another. To add on, the use of social networking website, Facebook by police officers to message, propagate and also the failure to action against such acts proves that campaigning is going on. These acts are illegal, unethical and would further damage MPS’ bid to become an organization that practices modern democratic policing.

While there are these malpractices, I want to quote a very important message posted by Station Inspector Younus Sobah on the the wall of Facebook group Police Gang, to which he is a special advisor.

“Many police related facebook groups have been actively advocating against a certain candidate. While I highly encourage freedom of expression, I would reccomend police officers of this group refrain themselves from getting politically one-sided and promote the idea of voting for the candidate who you choose is best, instead of trying to lure others to vote for or against one particular candidate. Police have a duty to be politically neutral in everything they do. Do vote, but vote with your conscious, and not because of fear.”

Source: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=572742727&aid=28353#/group.php?gid=5962278874

I urge my fellow colleagues to refrain from such acts and stay focused on our job of safe guarding the nation. This is the time we prove to the people we are “politically neutral” and not susceptible to political manipulation. Vote we must and it’s every eligible individual’s right.

Cynicism or positive Criticism?

In a very recent chat conversation that I had with one of my fellow colleagues at Maldives Police Service (MPS), I was called a cynic. He had this reaction when I started discussing the progress about the auditing currently being conducted at MPS. The reason why he called me a cynic remains unclear but something clear is that his reaction was based on a notion that’s within the circles of MPS. I am least bothered about what others think of me, rather more worried about how best policing could be done in the tiny island nation. Policing that is in the interest of public safety and national security.

I agree I am being critical of policies and practices of MPS and more recently have been using this platform to address controversial issues. The reasons are fundamental. People at MPS need to take this criticism or ‘cynicism’ positively as it is in the best interest of making people within and at the receiving end aware. Awareness that is crucial for prepping up for a democratic policing set up. The nation is on the brink of democratization and the law enforcement functioning have been questioned constantly by many stake holders. It is time we become more open and accountable to the people we serve.