Building the capacity of the RSIPF

The initial focus of the RAMSI Participating Police Force (PPF) was on restoring law and order, collecting weapons and arresting suspected criminals. In the first year of RAMSI’s mission, 3700 firearms were removed from communities, including approximately 700 high-powered weapons, and more than 3300 people were arrested, including 50 former militants.

After this initial stabilisation phase, the PPF then turned its focus to rebuilding the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF). The RSIPF had become compromised during the tensions period. In 2003, more than 200 local officers were removed from the RSIPF, with some charged and convicted of criminal offences.

Today, the PPF has stepped back from front-line policing and is instead focusing on continuing its partnership with the RSIPF to progress the organisation into a modern, effective and independent police force. RAMSI wants the RSIPF to have the full confidence and support of the Solomon Islands community. RAMSI’s capacity development work will allow the RSIPF to independently carry out its mandated functions of maintaining law and order in Solomon Islands. It is vital that Solomon Islands policing function is appropriate and affordable, so that RAMSI can withdraw from the Solomon Islands with its mission a success.

The PPF also maintains a public order management capability and can be called upon to support the RSIPF, if required, under RAMSI’s security mandate.

The RAMSI PPF Drawdown Strategy 2013-17 is the overarching document that outlines RAMSI’s current assistance to Solomon Islands. The Strategy provides for four years of planned capacity development assistance for the RSIPF up until 2017. This assistance involves ongoing training and equipment support that aims to develop the RSIPF into a highly effective, modern and professional police force.

The Solomon Islands Government Cabinet deliberated on the Drawdown Strategy and endorsed it as the framework governing the delivery of a flexible and comprehensive assistance package. The Strategy identifies the need for the PPF to build on the successes of previous capacity development work and continue with this focus.

Under the Strategy, it is envisaged that by mid-2017 the RSIPF will have the capability to:

  • respond to existing and emerging community based crime threats, effectively and efficiently;
  • uphold national security;
  • predict, deter and disperse serious occurrences of civil disorder;
  • manage and maintain a professional police training academy;
  • manage and maintain efficient and professional corporate support functions; and
  • manage, maintain and conduct anti-corruption and professional standards investigations with independence and professionalism.

Under the RAMSI PPF Drawdown Strategy 2013-17, the PPF will continue to deliver, and support the delivery of, training programs to RSIPF officers. This work is vital in building the skills of officers, and ensuring the highest professional standards, ethics and integrity in the force. Train-the-trainer programs are an essential part of this training, as it ensures that the RSIPF can carry out its own training programs into the future.

During 2015, a total of 511 RSIPF officers received training supported by RAMSI. This consisted of 409 men and 102 women representing 41% of RSIPF members.

Management training courses included Accountability, Authority and Responsibility (AAR) stage 1-3; Leadership Development Training; Senior Executive Enhanced Development Strategy training (SEEDS); Literacy and Numeracy; and Professional Development Programs.

Operational Training Courses included ongoing training for Close Personal Protection (CPP) and Police Response Team (PRT) teams, involving Close Protection Skills and Firearms maintenance.

All courses undertaken at the varying levels of rank and seniority are to compliment the current focus of the rearmament of the RSIPF.

In past years, a large focus was placed on improving the operational skills of RSIPF officers. This includes Operational Safety training, Public Order Management training and use of force training.

In September 2013, an Operational Safety Training facility was opened at RSIPF Police Headquarters, Rove. This is a purpose built building which has enabled the RSIPF to conduct their own Operational Safety Training and Public Order Management training within a modern facility. In line with the increasing transfer of responsibility from PPF to RSIPF, the majority of this training is now delivered by RSIPF officers.

Solomon Islands is a unique working environment. The country is made up of nearly 1000 islands, spread across nine main island groups. This presents major logistical challenges for any organisation operating in Solomon Islands, especially the RSIPF. To perform patrols or respond to call-outs, both road vehicles and maritime vessels are required. However their purchase and maintenance make policing in Solomon Islands relatively expensive.

As part of the Drawdown Strategy 2013 – 2017 improving the RSIPF’s logistical capability has been a key focus for RAMSI. This will ensure that the RSIPF can provide a professional level of policing services to provincial communities once RAMSI withdraws from Solomon Islands.

In 2015, RAMSI gifted nine mid-range vessels (Stabicraft) to the RSIPF as part of the Drawdown under the theme of improved mobility. RAMSI has also identified an additional 20 vehicles that will eventually be gifted to the RSIPF, who will then be responsible for all servicing, fuel and maintenance.

RAMSI has been delivering an extensive program of infrastructure development for the RSIPF for some years.

During 2015, significant major projects were implemented to improve RSIPF capability and capacity, including:

  • Completion of the National Response Division building
  • Continued work on building of a new Fire and Rescue Station in Honiara
  • Completion of the refurbishment of the White River Police Post in West Honiara
  • Completion of new Cell Blocks at Lata, Kira Kira, Munda and Tingoa
  • Completion of Boat Ramps at Gizo and Auki
  • A number of IT projects to improve RSIPF connectivity, investigations management and communications both internally and externally. Many of these IT projects have been conducted in partnership with broader Australian Aid programs.
  • Planning of the construction of a new Police Station at Tulaghi with boat ramp
  • Provision of a RSIPF Emergency Medical Care & Transport Sustainability Project. This will improve the emergency health care and transport to medical facilities for accident victims and injured persons.
  • Commencement of building a new Forensics building at Rove Police Headquarters

In previous years RAMSI has also  assisted with the provision of housing for RSIPF officers and the construction of provincial police posts. A total of 144 houses were built across the life of the project at a cost of AUD 20 million. The new accommodation has actively addressed sustainability issues, minimising travel time and transportation costs for the RSIPF, and making it easier to transfer staff between provinces.

RAMSI also funded the construction of new police headquarter buildings at Gizo, in Western Province, Taro in Choiseul Province and Henderson in Guadalcanal Province. The provision of modern provincial police headquarters has resulted in an improved working environment and will enable the RSIPF to deliver a more professional and effective service to communities.

In March 2013, the National Parliament of Solomon Islands unanimously approved a new Police Act. The aim of the legislation was to provide an updated legislative framework for policing in Solomon Islands. It officially came into effect on 1 March 2014.

The Police Act 2013 took into account the major reforms and structural changes that the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) has undergone since RAMSI’s arrival in 2003. It set out new laws to govern such areas as external relations, governance, employment, powers and duties, conducts and discipline of the RSIPF. It also included a Code of Conduct which will enhance the professionalization of the police force through increased accountability.

To develop the Act, the Ministry of Police worked closely with RAMSI to undertake a major review of the existing Police Act, which dated back to 1972. This process included two years of nationwide consultations which covered more than 5,000 individuals.

The Police Act 2013 is an essential part in assisting the RSIPF become an accountable, responsive and respected police force that works with communities to deliver a safe, peaceful and prosperous Solomon Islands.