Comment: Vital for police to win public confidence

Former Chief Superintendent Mohamed ‘MC’ Hameed was dismissed in August 2012 after being investigated for leaking intelligence information to the Maldivian Democratic Party as it compiled a timeline of events for the February 7 transfer of power.

Citing procedural issues, the Civil Court ordered Hameed’s reinstatement in September 2013. The Maldives Police Service is currently appealing the ruling.

Today is the second anniversary of the infamous February 8th – the day many witnessed a never-seen extent of police brutality. The CoNI, Police Integrity Commission, and reports by many others called to sanction the perpetrators of brutality. In fact the PIC found 5 police officers guilty in its inquiry into events of Feb 8, 2012 and recommended their expulsion from the police service.

Two years passed and that is yet to happen. Instead some of them are given important assignments such as being a focal point for elections.

Some, including the current police commissioner, declared police action on that day was necessary to prevent a major public order situation. For me it was not. Police action was not just unnecessary, it was disproportionate, unlawful and the MPS have still not accounted for it. Just two days ago, the Metropolitan Police chief – widely regarded as the top police officer in the UK – visited its parliament to apologise to an MP who had been subjected to public criticism based on falsified witness accounts by three Met police officers in an incident he was alleged to have sworn at police officers.

The saga – now famously known as ‘plebgate’ – saw the Met Commissioner initially backing his officers. After an independent inquiry found his officers guilty, he demonstrated what is required of him by apologising to the MP – the victim.

In Maldives, on Feb 8, 2012, dozens of public members and a few members of parliament were brutalised and treated inhumanly by police officers. So far the MPS had not stepped up to apologise to the public or to individual MPs. It has further degraded the integrity and public trust in the institution by failing to take any disciplinary action against the 5 among many who committed crimes on that day.

The current Home Minister Umar Naseer – who used to be a ‘Chulbul Pandey’ during his police career – wrote in his foreword for the Strategic Plan 2014/2018 of MPS that intelligence and forensics were vital to win the fight against crime. More than anything he needs to fix the basics first before opening his mouth to talk about modern tools for policing. Someone seriously needs to educate him on the founding principles of policing.

Here is one principle Umar Naseer and his police leaders need to ingrain in to the policing landscape and constantly remind their officers of: “the power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behavior, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect,” – Sir Robert Peel, 1829.

Therefore, public acceptance and confidence is vital for policing.