PNTL Needs to Increase Accident Response Transparency and Standards

PNTL Needs to Increase Accident Response Transparency and Standards post thumbnail image

In February 2013, at approximately 6 pm on a Sunday evening, a PNTL car crashed at a high speed into a slowly-moving (10 km/hr) car carrying 3 women. The PNTL car crashed because the PNTL officer driving it attempted to turn right while breaking several laws:

• The PNTL officer was driving on the wrong side of the road
• The PNTL officer did not pause at the intersection
• The PNTL officer was speeding
• The PNTL officer was not flashing his lights indicating an emergency or indicating his presence to oncoming traffic
• Additionally, the PNTL car did not have license plates on its designated positions at the front and back

1 woman, the driver, was injured badly and was ultimately airlifted to Darwin for medical attention. The other 2 women suffered lighter injuries.

The car, a passenger vehicle much smaller than the PNTL car, received the most damage. The projected cost of repairs is estimated to be equal to the price of a new car.
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When the police arrived at the scene of the accident, several procedural issues were highlighted:

• The PNTL were not transparent in that they did not provide a copy of the reports to the 3 women
• The PNTL were not transparent in that they took away the car (evidence) with no indication as to where or why
• Questions were raised about the honesty of the PNTL when the initial PNTL accident drawing and short

(1-paragraph) summary report did not reflect the actual accident scenario

• The PNTL did not offer to bring medical support to the victims at the scene of the accident
• The PNTL were not transparent about the status of the case or the car following the accident After the women
located the car, they were told verbally (only) that:

– The PNTL admitted responsibility for the incident.
– The victims would not have access to the car for 6 months to 1 year if it was to be fixed by the PNTL, with no guarantee that it would be fixed. This was the only offer of “compensation”.

Fundasaun Mahein (FM) sees three major problems with this scenario, which is likely happening almost every day:

First, the 3 women were all foreigners. This probably helped increase the transparency and level of service from the PNTL, although the there were still many issues with the level of service. How often does something like this happen to Timorese civilians, who may have fewer connections for accessing their police reports and crushed vehicles?
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Furthermore, the 3 passengers are convinced – based upon the damage sustained to a car – that a pedestrian, biker, or motorcyclist would have been killed by the impact of the PNTL car. What recourse does the regular Timorese have to hold the police responsible in the event of more serious physical injury or even death?

Second, the police failed to be easily accessible and helpful following the accident, and failed to admit responsibility and offer compensation in writing. Follow-up is just as important as the initial report. This is because there is no purpose in writing an initial report if it is only going to be placed on a shelf and never used to resolve the issue. How can the PNTL become more diligent in the follow-up process: increasing accessibility after the accident and leading the smooth resolution of conflicts?

Third, as the PNTL was solely responsible for all of the car damage, physical injury, and emotional trauma, the correct procedure would be for the PNTL to compensate the victims for car repairs and hospital bills in cash or to offer in-house repairs in a timely manner (less than one month). This system of compensation would ensure that the police follow their own rules, and decrease the risk of the police’s reckless behavior hurting civilians.
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The PNTL is committed to serving the public security and setting an example on the rule of law for civilians. Therefore, the PNTL also needs to accept responsibility when they make mistakes, and work to stop making those mistakes in the future. How can Timor-Leste develop this sort of system of responsibility to create a better-functioning community police force, held to international standards?

Therefore, Fundasaun Mahein (FM) would like to request that an independent investigation from the police, or from other relevant institutions, occur immediately to stop this type of issue from happening again in the future.

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