Are the police shooting to kill?

The circumstances of police shootings in Malaysia indicate that the police do not try to apprehend suspects alive but shoot with the intention to kill.

By Ding Jo-Ann (The Nut Graph)

POLICE-shooting victim Norizan Salleh never imagined she would ever be shot at. She describes how she felt lying on a highway near Gombak on 30 Oct 2009 after being shot five times by the police while on her way home: “I kept asking myself, ‘Betul ke, saya kena tembak? Is this what it feels like?’

“I felt my body and saw blood on my hands. My breath was becoming shallower and my hands were very cold. I wondered, ‘Is this how it feels like to die?'” Norizan tells The Nut Graph.


Norizan isn’t the only person to have been shot by the police in 2009. In August, two men were gunned down when they reportedly charged at the police with machetes after committing armed robbery in Shah Alam. Then on 8 Nov, police shot dead five men in Klang, also alleged armed robbers. Just a week later, police fatally shot a man who had reportedly run amok with a dagger in Guar Sanji, Perlis.

While we would certainly like to see less armed robbers and criminals on the streets, does it have to involve the police shooting suspects dead? Are there alternative means of apprehending these suspects alive? And who is policing the police to ensure that they are not indiscriminately using their weapons, thereby causing unnecessary deaths in the process?

Numbers game

Charles Santiago (file pic)
According to Klang MP Charles Santiago, media reports show there were 39 deaths from police shootings in 2009. A Suaram press statement says in 2008, there were 44 such deaths. On average, that’s more than three deaths a month. And that’s not taking into account unreported shootings and deaths in police custody.

Yes, the police must surely have a right to defend themselves and those whom they protect from suspected criminals when life is being threatened.  But why is the death rate from police shootings so high in Malaysia? Consider this. In countries like the United Kingdom, with more than twice our population, there was only one fatal shooting by the police in 2006. In some years, there were none at all.

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