Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Physical Fitness and Firearms Proficiency and Being a Competent Policeman

Readers must have noticed lately that I had been pounding on the issue of physical fitness and firearms proficiency and equate this with competence in police work.  The obvious question then is that, are these two things necessary for making a good policeman?  The answer is a resounding yes but smart alecks may rephrase it and say, pag magaling bang bumaril at malakas ang katawan ay magaling nang pulis?”  In this case, the answer becomes “it is no guarantee” but one thing remains sure:  a policeman can never be considered good if he does not know how to shoot well and is not physically fit.  Why?

The PNP mission says:  The PNP shall enforce the law, prevent and control crimes, maintain peace and order, ensure public safety and internal security, with the active support of the community.

To carry out this mission, the PNP has to do so many things: patrol, appear in court, liaise with the barangays, and many others.  But  but the bottomline of all these is that the police MUST BE PRESENT WHERE THE ACTION IS.  And most of the time, this action happen in the streets.  This is an aspect that many people, including many policemen themselves fully understand.  But for policemen, this realization actually raises several concerns.  The streets are a very harsh world.  It is the ultimate potpourri of the society so to speak.  All citizens use the streets.  No one is exempted—and for the criminals, the streets are actually a favorite haunt because it is here that people are exposed while distracted and preoccupied with other concerns:  being late for appointment, catching the correct bus, jostling for the god-damned MRT (and its administrator Vitangcol), running after the reckless jeepney and the likes that thinking of falling victim to a crime is the least of their concerns. 

It is on this perspective that the police become a critical necessity in the streets.  Its job is accurately summarized by a dictum that is actually a “plebe knowledge” in the PNPA that states, “The police is the wall that separates anarchy and peace.”

But the policeman is just human like everyone else.  Without a pronounced advantage, he is nothing but another potential victim and many criminals have this notion including those people who robbed a jewelry shop in the MOA recently despite the presence of policewomen nearby.  For those criminals, those policewomen are nothing.

It is for these reasons that policemen are trained:  to give them advantage over the rest of the population.  It if for this reason that police training is in military-like environment where physical fitness has a great premium.  If snatchers believe that the police cannot run after them (literally and not figuratively) because the policeman is pot bellied, they will go ahead with their nefarious activity even with the presence of the policeman.  As an inevitable consequence, the public may then perceive the policeman to be in cahoots with the snatcher even when he is not.  And actually sometimes, the worst happens:  some policemen actually become resigned to their ineptitude that they eventually succumb to the truism, “if you cannot beat them, join them.”  They then become cozy with the thieves, well because they know that they cannot do anything anyway, and the thieves may even give them “porsyento.”  Most importantly, some policemen, especially those in intelligence (kuno) favor this set up because of another consideration:  during crunch time and there is a great deal of pressure to solve the crime, they can actually just talk to these criminals (who they most often consider as assests) to return the loot.  Viola!  Crime solved and their stock as magaling na pulis is even enhanced.  And this is a literal nightmare.  Pansinin nyo: many policemen that land in the news for this type of corruption and illegal activities are pot-bellied.

But physical fitness as an advantage is not enough to ensure that the policeman will ALWAYS come on top of a situation.  It is because of this that the law accords a policeman the second advantage:  is his gun.  It is only the policeman in uniform who is allowed to carry his gun openly and in plain sight of everyone in the streets.  In training, it is emphasized that the gun is used only as a last resort.  It is because of this reason that majority of our policemen retire after 35 years of duty without ever shooting anyone.  This is the positive side of things.  Majority of our policemen are not trigger happy.  But the other side of the coin is this:  many policemen do not experience shooting anyone because many of them are patago tago in their job.  If they can avoid confronting a criminal, they will do.  Many policemen have a mindset that “Whether I do something spectacular or not in my shift, I will still receive my salary on the 15th and the 30th of the month.”  This is not because of a conscious and deliberate choice, but rather a mindset shaped by the harsh realities of life.  Consider this:  if a robber with a firearm is reported to a street policeman, it is not uncommon to see the latter turning away or making all sorts of alibi just to avoid a confrontation.  At the very least, he will dilly dally so that once he arrives at the scene, the criminal is hopefully gone.  Doubting?  Here are newspaper accounts. 



Why?  You shoot the robber, more often than not, the family takes revenge and files a case against you and most of time, the policeman is left by the PNP to fend for himself in court.  It is this aspect that separates the competent and the average policemen.  Policemen competent in their shooting skills are usually competent in other areas too and discharges their job with confidence.  Sadly however, competent policemen are few and far between.  But make no mistake about it, I believe that 99% of policemen are people dedicated and serious about their jobs.  It is the organization led in the past and up to the present by many incompetent officers that let them down.  The policewomen in MOA are very good poster girls of these.

The robbers thought that the policewomen will act like everybody else:  run for their lives when the shooting starts.  Oh how wrong they were.  The policewomen fought them resulting in the arrest of one of them.  While I and the citizenry applaud the actions of these policewomen, the result is far from satisfactory.  The other robbers still made good of their getaway with the loot.  Why?  The policewomen are buo ang loob yet kulang sa training.  I had discussed this aspect in my previous article. 

So what do I propose to remedy the situation?  Personally, I have seen that policemen incompetent with their firearms and pot bellied cuts across the rank strata of the organization.  At all ranks, there are these personnel.  However, the organization is most affected if these people are in the PCO ranks holding critical leadership and supervisory positions.  Yes there are many of them at the Superintendent and above ranks, and most often, they justify their ineptness by saying lines similar to that used by PSSUPT Conrado Capa, “E mga supervisors na kami.  Hindi na namin kailangang samahan ang mga tao namin sa kalsada.  Nagbibigay na lang kami ng suporta gaya ng pera at nag uutos ng kung ano ang gagawin.”  In that specific case of Capa when he made that statement, this may be justified and appropriate because of the specialized nature of the mission of his unit.  But for the PNP in general?  This is unacceptable, especially at the level of the frontline units.

Policemen have to bear in mind that they are no ordinary government employees.  More than anything else, they are a symbol of government authority.  If they are pot bellied, how will they command respect of the people?  This is even more pronounced in the PCOs because aside from being managers of the organization, the PCOs perform another critical role:  they are leaders of their people.  Especially for the PNPAs, the earliest book pounded in the heads in their plebe year is the Marine Troop Leader (issuematic ito).  I forgot the author but I can never forget the first leadership principle:  Be technically and tactically proficient.  The same book also states that leaders should set the example for their men.  I personally believe that leaders should serve as role model and inspiration to their subordinates for the latter to perform their job well.  Now, how can PCOs inspire their people if they themselves are incompetent?

It is on this aspect that I strongly advocate to make PFT and firearms competence a part of the selection criteria for positioning and promotion.

DO NOT CONSIDER PCOs FOR PROMOTION OR POSITION OF RESPONSIBILITY UNLESS THEY QUALIFY AT LEAST AS SHARPSHOOTERS AND RATE ABOVE 90% IN THE PFT.

Yan ang dapat puntuhan ng mga PNPA sa reklamo nila about unequal distribution of positions at hindi ang eskwelahan ang basehan.

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