Deputy Commissioner Huafolo said in 2017 alone, over 80 policemen and women died mostly from natural causes whilst serving on active duty. There were 64 deaths in 2018 and 10 within the first four months of this year.
“Most of these deaths were from lifestyle diseases, meaning, these deaths could have been prevented if the members had taken care of themselves, ate the right food, exercised and did regular medical checks.
“The ages of the members who died over the last five years were between 40 and 55.”
He said for the family of the policeman or woman, it was a tragic loss of their breadwinner, husband, wife, father or mother. For the Constabulary it was a huge loss as well in that many of the members had five to 20 more years of service left.
“They have taken with them all the training we have given them and the years of experiences as well. We are trying to fill a huge gap in the police to people ratio but with the increasing number of deaths and ad hoc recruitment to date due to funding constraints, we are unable to do so.
“Furthermore, the deaths are costing the state millions of kina in funeral and repatriation costs which are not catered for in the police recurrent budget and causing a further strain on our limited finances.”
Deputy Commissioner Huafolo said last year recommendations were made to the Departments of Finance and Treasury to increase funeral and repatriation costs within the Constabulary’s recurrent budgetary allocation but this request was not approved.
This worrying trend has now prompted the RPNGC management to act decisively in a bid to save lives and cut costs.
“Members of the Constabulary are being encouraged to take care of their health. This is their personal responsibility. The Department cannot do this for them but we have been encouraging them to eat right, exercise regularly and do regular medical check-ups.
“In fact, members are expected to comply with the Constabulary’s work ethics which requires them to be physically fit and healthy at all times.
“I urge all members of the Constabulary to watch their diet and exercise regularly. Whilst this is a personal responsibility, the failure of members to look after their own health has negative implications for the organisation and thus makes it an organisational responsibility.
“The RPNGC management will issue directives for members to conform to the Constabulary’s Health and Physical Fitness policy,” Deputy Commissioner Huafolo said.
Given the experiences of the last five years, the RPNGC will be making further recommendations for increased funding for deaths and repatriation for its members in the 2020 and future budget allocations to police.
(Deputy Police Commissioner and Chief of Administration, Raphael Huafolo)