The new Milne Bay Provincial Police Commander is pushing for a new-look, well-disciplined force if they are to tackle the tremendous challenge of law and order.
Peter Barkie took up the post in July and is working to restore command and control in a force that, in the past few years, has done more damage than the criminals in Alotau.
When speaking to this newsroom, PPC Barkie described the island province’s law and order situation as “out of control”.
“The police in Milne Bay have not been very effective,” he stated. “There was a complete loss of confidence by the public on policing in Milne Bay.”
The new PPC based his comments on scope work that was conducted before transferring over from West New Britain.
Under the PNG–Australia Policing Partnership, he had an opportunity to gauge public opinion with the assistance of the Australian Federal Police.
“For one week, we did interviews with all the different sectors in Milne Bay; from the political leadership down to the business sectors and to major companies like the New Britain Palm Oil Development. The message we received was that, they have lost confidence in the police. And they told us that they were more scared of the police than the bad guys.”
With Barkie replacing former local PPC, George Bayagau, his challenge now is to provide the leadership that will motivate his officers to step up and deliver according to the people’s expectations.
“I’m giving priority to providing an atmosphere conducive for the people of Milne Bay to go about their lawful business.”
With the beche-de-mer season in full swing, the less than 80 police personnel are depending on their experience and limited resources to ensure the safety of local divers and buyers in the sector.
Meantime, cleanup is already underway in the force, with two officers serving time at the Gili Gili Corrective Institution; one for five counts of rape and another for wilful murder.
More arrests are anticipated as the Internal Investigation Unit continues looking into the conduct of members of the Milne Bay police force.