Manama: Bahrain’s new head of public security has called for a fresh start in the country as he announced a new push for improving community policing.

In a special New Year message marking his appointment, Tarek Al Hassan said that 500 more officers would be recruited from all segments of the Bahraini society to boost community relations.

“The officers will wear distinctive uniforms and will only police the local area from which they have been recruited,” Al Hassan said. “The task now after the publication of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report is to look at where we have gone wrong, to face our mistakes and learn lessons,” said Al Hassan, the former ministry spokesman who has been recently given the task of leading public security.

According to Al Hassan, the first part is to reinforce the police relationship with the community and to enhance their performance and capabilities with training.

“We are going to find 500 men and women from all local communities in Bahrain to reinforce our community service police. They will be our conduit with the community as well,” he said. “There must be soft policing as well as hard policing.”

Al Hassan has been for 30 years with Bahrain’s police force and has studied public security issues at universities in both the US and UK.

He will be this month joined in reforming the police service and implementing the BICI recommendations by international ‘super cops’ John Timoney from the US and John Yates from the UK.

“Significant progress” had already been made on implementing the BICI recommendations, including referring officers accused of abuse to public prosecutors,” he said. “I am determined to make people understand that we have a responsibility to ensure that whoever breaks the law will be held accountable, whether it is a private citizen or a policeman,” he said.

Al Hassan said that there would also be programmes to reach out to Bahraini youth.

“Overall, I am hopeful about the coming year. I look at it very positively. On the surface it might look very difficult, but I think many people have realised that there is a democracy in Bahrain - maybe not the same as in the UK or US - but there is a process. And I think people need to engage and His Majesty the King has shown us more than once that he is willing to listen. He does not shut the door on anyone,” he said. “There should be consensus, though. Bahrain is not just one community, not just one sect; it is a mixture of communities and sects. All have to engage and participate in the process. We are here to make sure that there is rule of law in Bahrain, but we will be doing that while working with the community and in partnership with them,” Al Hassan said.