|Front cover of the rules for engagement document|
Anyone joining the force in Fiji is taught the basic tenet of police operations. Why then do police officers go about beating suspects, so badly that physical injury is common?
The Rules of Engagement reads: "In almost every case where an armed offender is contained and a 'stand-off' situation exists, the resources provided by any one station will be insufficient. In such cases request the DPC to authorise the Mobile Squad to attend without delay.
"The mobile squad has its own command structure, and it is important that they are free to operate as a team. This will mean that on arrival, the Mobile Squad will replace those police working the inner perimeter of the scene, except the negotiator."
The Fiji Force also advocates that an armed offender or anyone who resisting arrest be taken through a negotiation process.
Judging from the injuries sustained by Epeli Qaraniqio (he was beaten so badly his right leg had to be amputated) and his fellow escapees at the hands of Fiji Police officers and the military, very little if any of the protocols were followed.
Excerpts from the Fiji Police Forces Rules of Engagement for Armed Offenders:
|Fiji police looking for international profile but failing basics|
In any police action, the main aim is:-
to protect life and property.
If any person loses his life, especially if it is the life of an innocent victim, the police action will be viewed by the public as a failure.
Every policeman must be properly instructed so that in the excitement and tension of the situation he never forgets his aim, which is to prevent loss of life.
He must not act impulsively, as the success of any plan will depend on a team approach, good communications, and the coordination of the tactics by the officer in command at the scene.
The plan must be simple and effective. It must revolve around three factors—
1. To contain the situation
2. To reduce tension
3. To negotiate a sensible settlement of
Containing the Situation
In the early stage of an act of armed resistance, police resources will probably be scarce.
During this stage it will be necessary to try to contain the movements of the offender to enable reinforcements to isolate an area around him.
The size of this area must be decided by considering the resources available, the type of surroundings, and the range of weapons used by the offender.
Regard this area as the “inner isolation” or “inner perimeter.”
Remove all persons from the area if this can be achieved with safety.
Obtain sufficient police to seal the area to prevent the escape of the offender, and to prevent unauthorised persons from entering.
Establish a second perimeter that is the “outer perimeter” or “outer isolation.”
The aim is to divert traffic and people around the outer perimeter to avoid congestion.
This “outer perimeter” should include a check point for persons who may wish to approach the inner isolation area.
No fixed instructions exist regarding the reduction of tension. Each situation has its own set of factors that are different from any previous incident.
The conduct and attitude of the offender will have a large influence on the course of action necessary to reduce the tension.
However, experience has proven that much can be done by the member in charge initially, to calm the situation and begin to create a favourable atmosphere to commence the negotiation of a peaceful settlement.
To begin with, the officer in charge must remain calm. A display of controlled police professionalism will give confidence to the members under his command. Most important, it will ensure a commitment to his plan of action by his subordinates.
Keeping the number of police who can be seen to the minimum will often help. (Also bearing in mind the need for some members in reserve)
Avoid the use of sirens and flashing blue lights where possible. The presence of helicopters can sometimes add to the level of tension among the police or the offender. Its closeness should be controlled by the Officer in Charge of the situation.
Once the offender is contained, time is on your side. It is your ally. The Officer in Charge need not hurry his actions and his decisions. Remember, the aim at this stage is to create and atmosphere suitable for negotiation. Time is on the side of the police.
Use of Mobile Squad
If any time during the operation, the situation cannot, or cannot safely, be brought under control by normal police resources within the area, the OC must make a request to the DPC for the assistance of the Mobile Squad closest to the scene.
In almost every case where an armed offender is contained and a “stand-off” situation exists, the resources provided by any one station will be insufficient. In such cases request the DPC to authorise the Mobile Squad to attend without delay.
The mobile squad has its own command structure, and it is important that they are free to operate as a team. This will mean that on arrival, the Mobile Squad will replace those police working the inner perimeter of the scene, except the negotiator.
General command of the operation remains the responsibility of the Officer in command.
Use of Weapons
The legal justifications regarding the use of firearms must still be complied with.
Once the first stage of the confrontation is over and the situation is contained, the only person who can authorise the use of firearms is the OC of the scene.
An emergency involving the need for self defence by any individual policeman may arise. This would be the case of an armed offender leaving his barricaded position and threatening a policeman who is part of the containment group.
Except for that situation, a minimum show of force is necessary, as a part of the tension reducing process.
It is the responsibility of the OC to ensure that firearms discipline is understood and maintained.
He must give clear and firm directions to his subordinates that they are to act in this manner as professional police.
Importance of Time
The most important factor working in favour of the police is time. Any attempt to take short cuts to disarm the offender and complete the incident without the authority of the OC, may well end in disaster.
Any rise in tension which causes the offender to fire shots, even if it is a suicide attempt, places the life of any hostage in danger. If hostages are being held, any action by police, which increases the risk to their lives, cannot be justified.
If the offender kills a hostage, action may then have to be taken to rescue the remaining hostages. The danger of them also being killed by the offender, may justify the risks involved in a rescue attempt.
Generally, international experience has proven that the longer the time that the offender spends with the hostages, the less likely he is to kill them. This is because they tend to identify and develop feelings for one another, and a personal relationship develops (known as the “Stockholm Syndrome”).
While this can have positive and negative effects, any development that may preserve life is worth aiming for.
The importance of good communications between the Communications Centre, the OC, the police at the scene, and the offender cannot be stressed enough.
Communications will be the key to the successful command and conclusion of the operation.
If possible, use a separate radio channel for the operation. If walkie-talkie radios are available or can be transported to the scene, they are the means by which the OC can keep control and direction of the operation.
Consider the value of specialists in the use of electronics and communications. They should be used to explore every avenue possible to gather information and facts about the offender, his intentions, and his mental state. This enables decisions by the Officer in Command.
Keep a log of all directions given and events occurring during the operation.
This is for the preparation of accurate reports afterwards, and for use in court.
A log has the same credibility as notes taken at the time of the occurrence.
Experience has shown that unless the person chosen for the task on behalf of the OC knows what is required of the log-keeper, the record at the conclusion of the incident will be unsatisfactory.
In addition, keep a detailed log at the Communications Centre.
An armed offender or siege/hostage situation will have the attention of the media.
Therefore it is necessary that all police at the scene project a professional and disciplined image.
The manner in which the media report an incident, may decide whether the public and any authority over the police, see the operation as a success or a failure.
Sound police forward planning always produces a better public image when the unexpected occur. This part briefly deals with what are often complex operational problems requiring critical decisions by police. In earlier years, police overcame most problems of this type by taking a practical, common sense approach and acting on their own initiative. In doing so, many placed their own lives at risk unnecessarily, and some lost them.
Although police lives are often placed at risk, it is no longer satisfactory when dealing with armed offenders who are prepared to risk lives of innocent people to achieve their aim. This situation can only be handled properly and safely, by choosing the right tactics. A basic plan along the guidelines set out in this section is essential. The success of that plan will hinge on a team approach, good communications, and the coordination of the tactics under one commander.