The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) had been implicated of using firearms to advance criminal and ethnic goals during the Tensions period. Because of this, the RSIPF was disarmed as part of RAMSI’s initial actions in 2003 to restore stability to Solomon Islands.
After over ten years of extensive capacity development by RAMSI, the RSIPF has become a very different police force. The RSIPF now has greater levels of accountability and disciplinary procedures, and RAMSI is supporting further improvements.
In light of this, Solomon Islands Government authorised RAMSI in October 2013 to commence the first phase, of a two-phase project, for the limited reintroduction of firearms to the RSIPF.
The limited rearmament of the RSIPF represents the last key capability gap needing to be addressed for the force to be able to independently guarantee law and order in Solomon Islands. This must be addressed for RAMSI to successfully complete its mission.
There are occasions when police officers need to be able to use firearms in the course of their duties in self-defence, or in defence of others. Police officers may come across situations where there is an immediate threat of death or serious injury of themselves or members of the public. Without firearms the RSIPF could not independently ensure their own safety, or the safety of the public, in situations when criminals themselves have firearms.
Without access to firearms, RSIPF officers are not currently able to enforce the national security interests of Solomon Islands. This includes providing border protection. Solomon Islands Government is also unable to provide full protection to Solomon Islander or foreign dignitaries, who face serious threats to their safety.
Under international conventions it is a requirement that all international airports maintain an armed police presence. Without rearmament, the RSIPF will not be able to meet this obligation, which would impact on their ability to have a working international airport.
The RSIPF also need to deal with crocodile destruction on a regular basis. Crocodiles pose a threat to many Solomon Islanders living along the coast or rivers. Without firearms, the RSIPF will not be able to effectively and humanely destroy crocodiles, which would mean higher incidents of crocodile attacks on Solomon Islanders.
Under the project, the reintroduction of firearms will be limited to only certain units within the RSIPF. These units have an operational requirement as they work in high-threat environments.
The units to be rearmed are:
- the Police Response Team;
- close Personal Protection Unit; and
- police at the international airport.
Members of the units to be rearmed will be chosen through a rigorous selection and training process. Members of the three units will only be issued firearms after they meet RSIPF endorsed curriculum standards, which are based on Australian Federal Police standards.
Any RSIPF member found to be misusing a weapon, not following correct procedure or abusing their position as an armed police officer will be dealt with strictly according to Solomon Islands law. Regular audits of firearms and armouries will be conducted to ensure this.
In October 2013, the Solomon Islands Government made a decision, through Cabinet, that the RSIPF needed a limited armed capability. Solomon Islands Government has authorised the RSIPF and relevant agencies to work with RAMSI to prepare for the limited reintroduction of firearms. This project will consist of two stages.
The first stage, which has been approved and commenced, has only authorised preparatory work. This work includes:
- carrying out consultations with the community and stakeholders;
- building infrastructure including armouries and training facilities;
- developing necessary policies and regulations governing the carriage and use of firearms; and
- training a carefully selected number of RSIPF officers in the use of a limited number and type of firearms.
Separate approval from Solomon Islands Government is required before the actual introduction of firearms to the few select areas of the RSIPF takes place. Once the first stage of preparatory work is complete, Solomon Islands Government will consider whether to reintroduce firearms or not.