The first police force, the Armed Native Constabulary (ANC), was established in 1890 in British New Guinea. In 1888 Administrator MacGregor was set ashore in Port Moresby without any armed men to back up his claim to exercise power on behalf of the British Empire. He decided that he needed armed men to enforce his rule, and control the endemic tribal fighting. In 1890 the British administration in Fiji provided him with a few Solomon Islands policemen and Fijian NCOs. This became the nucleus of a paramilitary police force, the ANC.
The Fijians and Solomon Islanders were gradually replaced by local recruits, and by 1898 the force of 100 men consisted entirely of Papuans. There was a white police commandant, and a contingent of police under his direct control. The Administration’s officials in the field were sworn in as police officers and magistrates, and detachments of the ANC were sent to each government station. The ANC played an extremely important part in the extension of British control over Papua, and were often involved in fighting with considerable loss of life to those who opposed the imposition of British control. MacGregor sometimes used the ANC on punitive expeditions against groups which had killed whites or taken part in tribal fighting. A separate system of village constables set up in 1892 to take care of everyday law and order in the villages was never very effective.
The ANC played a particularly important role under Lieutenant-Governor Hubert Murray after the British Protectorate passed to Australian control and was renamed Papua . Between 1906 and 1940 “Murray’s police”, as they came to be called, accompanied European officers on patrols sent out to explore the country and extend Administration control. These patrols were usually the first official contact villagers had with the Administration. Murray believed in peaceful patrolling whenever possible. In 1939 the ANC became the Royal Papuan Constabulary.
In German New Guinea a paramilitary police force, much like the ANC in British New Guinea, was established by Hahl in 1896. Some police were stationed at the headquarters in Rabaul. Others were recruited and trained in districts and attached to District Officers. The police detachment at Rabaul was used to back up district police units when necessary. Police were frequently involved in European-led punitive expeditions. In 1922 the Australians, who had taken over the German colony in 1914, established the New Guinea Police Force. The police in the Australian Territory of New Guinea were used for much the same purposes as those in the Territory of Papua, but used their weapons far more freely than those under Administrator Murray’s control.
After the Japanese invasion in 1942 the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) administered jointly those parts of both territories not under military occupation and amalgamated the forces under the name of the Royal Papuan Constabulary and New Guinea Police Force. Most police remained loyal to the Australian Administration, and gave valuable support to the Australian army, often acting as scouts and collecting information about the movements of the Japanese. They accompanied ANGAU patrols conscripting laborers and provided escorts to supervise those carrying supplies to the Australian front lines.
After the war the police resumed their prewar role in extending Australian control over newly contacted regions. Police work in towns became increasingly important as towns grew. In towns police were concerned with traffic and crowd control and the prevention and detection of crime. In 1955 the force was renamed the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabulary and, at Independence in 1975, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. The force is divided into five commands: Central, Coastal, Islands, Highlands and Border. The Commissioner of Police is appointed by the National Executive Council (NEC). Special units include criminal investigation, road safety and communication. In 1992 a rapid deployment unit was formed to protect the headquarters of mines under attack. In 1993 the police force had approximately 5,000 members. A substantial five-year Australian International Development Aid Bureau (AIDAB) project to upgrade the force is to be reviewed in 1993.