We need REAL police — not wannabe cops
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 17:15
Clearly, the Royal Malaysian Police are flawed in its pursuit of simulated policing that will fail to achieve even a simulation of stability in controlling crime.
It’s a dangerous and ill-conceived move that could result in confusion among the public, lead to misunderstandings and mistaken identities.
The Malay Mail pored over the audacious scheme to extend the police uniform to selected officers from other enforcement agencies after an announcement of the programme by the Federal Internal Security and Public Order director Datuk Salleh Mat Rasid in the lead-up to the 205th Police Day celebration.
As it stands:
• A staggering 20,000 People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela) and Civil Defence personnel have been issued police uniforms to create a high profile presence on the streets in the Klang Valley, Selangor, Penang and Johor.
• In the long-term, another 80,000 people will be recruited to build a pool of 100,000 police community support officers, from Kuala Lumpur City Hall and Petaling Jaya City Council enforcement agencies, auxiliary police and Rukun Tetangga.
They’re not police officers. They should be distinct. They should be different.
The public should not be led to think there are more police personnel on the beat than in reality there are.
Ironically, while the police uniform is being doled out in the thousands to those outside the force, the police force does not have exclusive rights to the blue uniform.
The non-gazetting of its uniform colour and design has led to a lot of confusion.
By not doing so, the Royal Malaysian Police has ignored the importance of maintaining the omnipresent impact of the police force to instil fear in criminals and dispel confusion.
Now, with those outside the force wearing police uniforms, the public would be justified in feeling a sense of despair. The criminals must be laughing.
Policing is based on democratic consent. Without the support of the public, the nation’s 110,000 cops would not be able to function.
So, the public must have respect for the abilities and efficiency of police officers.
Instead, we are confronted with a situation where the prospect of the police community support officers becoming “possessed” with power when they put on the police uniform is worryingly high.
You give someone a police uniform and he thinks he lords over people. You take the uniform off and he is just nobody.
The uniform transforms some ordinary guys into another kind of person; they become crazed, as if the uniform allows them liberty to do things they will probably never do without the garb.
Are they fit to be thrown into the front line against crime?
The public wants a service that can do its job properly.
That means the majority should be mature, adept in their tasks and physically and mentally capable people.
The latest development in policing could build expectations among the public about the duties and capabilities of these support personnel.
The indignant criticism of this process raises interesting questions:
• How are we to know that these new ‘police officers’ have the swiftness and courage to tackle crime?
• How are we to know that these ‘cops’ have the ability to conduct ‘risk assessment’ before acting, for example against a public demonstration?
Former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hasan has criticised the idea of a common uniform, saying the move will devalue the image of the police force.
Musa told The Malay Mail that the police force had always been the primary enforcement agency in the country and the common uniform system will only confuse the public.
He said a standard uniform will lead to abuse of authority.
Non-governmental organisation, Tenaganita, executive director Irene Fernandez attested to this, saying the new system would result in more extortion of foreign workers by bogus enforcement officers.
“Every day, at least one such worker is extorted. If Malaysians are going to find it difficult to identify the officers, imagine how it would be for foreigners,” she exclaimed.
Senior police officers are stunned over this aspect of the blue ocean strategy (the wider, deeper potential of market space that is not yet explored) adopted by federal police. Their dissent toward this scheme is rife.
A police chief contended that extending police uniforms to other enforcement agencies would only make the public lose more trust in the force and respect for the blue uniform.
“Right now, we are trying to weed out the bad apples and earn back the public’s trust. Giving the police uniform to others is a bad idea as it only invites more abuse of power and degrades the standards of the police,” the top cop told The Malay Mail on condition of anonymity.
If this police community support scheme is to boost “omnipresence” — high visibility — among the public, as Salleh says, would this not cheapen the police uniform?
The only visible difference would be a badge differentiating the police from personnel from other enforcement agencies.
But they will have some police powers.
All it takes is for these officers to undergo a mere three weeks of police standard operating procedures training before they walk out a ‘cop.’
The police powers given to them will be based on rank and experience. Do the powers include the authority to detain a suspect; demand an offender’s name and address, seize drugs, disperse groups and act as guardians of morality?
The public needs to know their scope of duties and powers for sanity to prevail in society.
These police community support officers would never have been needed if the approach to basic policing had not been so badly flawed.
Has traditional policing become too reactionary to invite this dramatic widening of ‘recruitment’?
What encouraged the withdrawal from the streets? It used to be that the focus on putting more officers on beat policing, heightened detection rates and lessened the number of complaints from the public.
Fact is, traditional beat policing has declined so rapidly in recent years and professional officers have become increasingly invisible.
And while this “seeing red over men in blue” debate rages, the last thing you need is this thoughtless remark by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Lee Chee Leong who was asked to comment on possible abuse of powers by the extended family of the police:
“On and off, you will get some bad guys, but if they are identified, they will be charged.”
That remark is both frivolous and wrong-headed. It’s a flashpoint that pointedly trumps rational thought.
Not only should we be glad to be in the slow lane on this particular highway. We should be looking anxiously for the first available exit — and for leaders brave enough to take it.
Multiple award-winning journalist Frankie D’Cruz is Editor-At-Large of The Malay Mail. He can be reached at [email protected]