Australian Federal Police Office Works To Improve Cooks Islands Policing

Veteran officerfocuses on training regional police forces

By Rashneel Kumar 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Sept. 3, 2016) – Geoff While wants to create great police officers.

More particularly, he wants to train great police officers into becoming great leaders able to take control of emergency situations and get the best outcomes for those involved.

Whiley is an experienced Australian Federal Police officer in the international operations area of the force.

At the moment he is attached to the Pacific Police Development Programme (Regional), that deals with small Pacific nations and their main work involves capacity development with a “heavy emphasis on training within those nations.”

They are Cook Islands, Niue, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Marshall Islands.

Whiley tutors the course with Steve Kirby, a former AFP officer and consultant, who was brought back from retirement because of his expertise.

“He has years and years of experience in C3 (Command and Control Co-ordination) and running national exercises, counter terrorism exercises at every level you can think of. He is an absolute expert in regard to this,” Whiley says.

“He actually established the whole training programme for the Federal police. So, he’s assisted me in melding the programme to work for the Pacific, then assisted me with the delivery.  We can get that right and then we can roll it out right across the Pacific.

“He’s done a lot of work in the Solomon Islands doing a similar thing there and previously Papua New Guinea.”

Whiley and Kirby conduct investigations training programmes where they travel to each one of the nations and deliver investigations training.

“We gradually build them up,” Whiley says. “It’s a very phased programme because that occurs over a series of years to achieve what we are looking for.

“Recently we have begun to provide training packages on Command and Control Co-ordination. C3 as we call it. The programme here in Cook Islands focuses on C3 and the aim is to provide police officers from those seven nations - and in particular officers from CI, with additional leadership skills.

“This enables them to exert proper command and control co-ordination within incidents at a police level all the way up to a major national emergency.”

He said the course teaches a lot of principles starting from the basics of what C3 is, and how it is exercised, and we take that right up to stage - where we are at currently with this programme - we are working on Incident Command and Control System (ICCS) to teach them how to have a systematic approach to managing a large scale incident.

“That is one that is going to last beyond just the immediate first response.

“We do have a whole range of scenarios and activities that we conduct over a seven-day package. We delivered seven-day package initially here in CI in April involving all our regional participants.”

The course includes a couple of police officers from each country hosted here by Police Commissioner Maara Tatava, and conducted at CI police headquarters with some Cook Islands participants on it.

“What we’ve done in this latest one is to conduct two training courses. The first more specifically for the Cook Islands police service.

“We were looking at how they actually manage things within their resources.

“The second part has brought in the regional part, widened it and made a much larger class size. We started to invite representatives of two other major emergency response services: the fire brigade and ambulance.

“What they bring to it is that perspective from their services. One thing we push very, very hard within the class is the need to establish a unified command between emergency services so they are working in concert to manage an incident.

“Every AFP police officer goes through this style of training and we suddenly realised at incidents our people who should have been showing good leadership skills, and were expected to show good leadership skills, were not.

“They simply didn’t understand the process. It’s not something you are born into. You are not born a leader, you are trained to be a leader.”

Whiley said what was missing was that training.

“There was an assumption that ‘yes you’ve been a police officer for 20 years you can lead’. Not necessarily. And this is what these guys find out. 

“A lot of the people within this classroom, particularly from visiting nations, have had 20-plus years of policing experience. And yet, right from the beginning, we tell them ‘we are going to tell you how much you don’t know’ about being a leader in an incident-control situation.”

Whiley says the training programme has had really strong support from Commissioner Tetava.

“He’s been a huge proponent of the programme.

“He’s very quick to invite us into his country to deliver here and he’s extremely keen on his people receiving the training. That why there’s the secondary course for them. And he’s a real advocate for us when in commissioner of police meetings about how important this training is.

“He’s a great champion for us and that’s why we’ve centred ourselves here.”

Whiley said it was more useful to show visiting regional people what can be done with a fairly developed police force.

“So it’s kind of giving them the aspiration towards doing same thing.

“Having said that you still find people, like in Australia, who you expect leadership out of and you don’t get it.”

Whiley says one of the aims is to reach a point where the training is being delivered by the Pacific for the Pacific.

“That’s our overall aim.”

As an example , he said: “We’ve got Juliana Tongahai from the Niue police.  Juliana was a participant in our last lot of training in April and she was excellent and revealed some quite good presentation skills as well.

“We requested she come back as a classroom instructor. That provides Pacific instruction for the team and Pacific thinking.”

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