Wake up call for the Police

The police must realise that many sections of our community regard them as an “occupying force” and not protectors of citizens’ rights.

By Tunku Abdul Aziz, MySinchew

THE ROYAL Malaysia Police has come under criticism for one reason or another on a daily basis. Many of the complaints, I am sure, are not entirely fair or founded. This is not so surprising because we expect the police to perform superhuman acts of heroism and efficiency. I

In short, we expect miracles, no less, and often forget that donning the cheap dark blue uniform is a human being with all the frailties of God’s creation who is inadequately prepared for modern policing, generally badly officered and led and woefully under compensated for doing a dangerous and difficult job that no one in his or her right mind will want to do either for love or money.

I am not making excuses for them, but it is less than useless for us to criticise them endlessly without showing them the way forward. We all recognise the symptoms, but the solution ultimately lies in treating the root causes of the malaise. As they say, the devil is in the detail.

So, I was ecstatic, barely able to contain myself as I read a report by Koh Lay Chin of the New Sunday Times over breakfast that Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein, the Home Minister, had said that “in line with the aims to enhance the image and operations of the (police) force he will be retracing steps to see if the recommendations (of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police) had made an impact.

A day or so later, there was a report that Hishamuddin not only not retraced the steps, but seemed to have managed to get sucked into a maelstrom of self-doubt. It now looks as if he is going to follow in the footsteps of the lamentable Datuk Seri, now Tun, Abdullah Badawi by dropping the hottest of the 125 hot potatoes dished up by the Royal Commission. I am talking about the most crucial of the them all, and one that will make the greatest impact on policing in our country, and that is the formation of the IPCMC or the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission.

The IGP and his officers have openly resisted its implementation claiming it would interfere with their work. I can understand their concern, but surely they are missing the point completely. It is not about emasculation of their powers, but building public trust and confidence. Does the IGP not recognise that the reputation of the service he leads is in tatters? If he does not, he is living in a fool’s paradise which according to my dictionary, the Oxford Advanced Learner’s, is “a state of happiness that is based on something that is false or cannot last although the happy person does not realise it.”

The only way to enhance both the reputation and efficiency of the Royal Malaysia Police, which was precisely the reason why the Royal Commission was set up in the first place, is for the Government to adopt without any foot dragging or equivocation all the 125 recommendations which have in the main been based on public complaints of police inefficiency, including the very serious charges of abuse of power, brutality and corruption.

I find it extraordinary, to say the least, that Abdullah Badawi as prime minister should have allowed the police to be selective in what they would accept, but then it would not have been Pak Lah’s style to force an issue which is why we find ourselves in this sorry state today.

The police as public servants in a disciplined service should be told in the clearest possible terms that what they think is good for them (such as their highly developed culture of impunity and the obsession with their police powers) is unacceptable in this day and age. Police training should concentrate less on police powers and more on human rights to redress the imbalance.

The police must realise that many sections of our community regard them as an “occupying force” and not protectors of citizens’ rights. All this is extremely unfortunate because if this process of alienation is not arrested quickly, no pun intended, the public and the police will not be able to work together, to the detriment of law and order in our country. Police effectiveness depends on public confidence and support. They have to earn public trust.

The IPCMC holds the key as it does in the UK, Australia, and Hong Kong among others, to fair and efficient policing in the 21st century and beyond. The IGP must move with the latest developments in effective policing, the sort of policing that transforms the police from a force with its uncharitable connotations to a service with emphasis on service in the public interest. The IPCMC is to protect both the citizens, the primary duty of policing, and the police themselves, in their case against allegations of impropriety, often made without any basis.

The police appear to subscribe to the notion that there are already any number of internal rules and procedures to keep them from crossing the thin blue line and no “outside interference, please, thank you.” They must know that there is no police service in the world that is known to be able to police itself, and why should the IGP think that the reputation-battered Royal Malaysia Police is any different because its record seems to suggest otherwise. The IPCMC is their last wake-up call.