The pitiable state of our police force

A Concerned Malaysian
Sep 20, 10

Security is the most essential element a country needs to ensure its long life and success. The most important institution that guarantees security of a country is the police force. Transparency and rule of law in the leadership of a country will ensure efficiency of the police institution. The credibility and reliability of the police reflect the quality and extent of excellence that a government maintains in ruling a country.

 

In Malaysia, sadly, the police institution has lost the trust of citizens to a very great extent, which was not the case in the past. Our fathers and grandfathers still brag how secure they felt when policemen were around, or how they could always count on the police to protect them. The reverse is happening today. People nowadays sneer and scorn when the word ‘police’ is mentioned.

Worse, policemen today have become the source of fear and insecurity – the total opposite of what they once were, and should be, to Malaysian society. Three decades ago one would run to a police officer if threatened by a thief. Today we run away from the police, fearing that they would threaten us with arrests and fine if we do not satisfy them with bribes.

Three decades ago one would call the police should any problem occur. Today we do not know who to call to complain about the misbehavior and corruption of policemen. Also previously policemen were busy looking for thieves and criminals. Today, they are busy chasing after politicians, journalists, or anyone that the government considers a threat. They are occupied with collecting evidence for politically motivated legal proceedings. They are busy questioning, interrogating and even torturing people who are not yet proved guilty by the court.

They spend much time and energy ‘supervising’ demonstrations and, if needed, beating up people or unleashing tear gas to ‘teach’ the citizens a lesson. In other words, policemen nowadays have changed from being a refuge of peace and security for citizens into a tool of a repressive government.

There are obviously honourable exceptions in the police and we should respect them for their honesty and sense of responsibility. All Malaysians definitely understand that when discussing the disease of corruption that has befallen our police institution; we do not mean that each and every individual there is corrupt. Rather what we regret is the extent of loss of credibility that the police institution had suffered ever since the early 1980s.

It all started during the era of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and no serious action was taken by Pak Lah to revive the police institution or to restore its credibility in order to regain public trust. And given the poor reputation of the current regime, it is unlikely that the tarnished reputation of the police will ever be repaired.

Having a plan to achieve the status of a developed nation by 2020 and looking at the pitiable condition of today’s police institution, Malaysia and the people in power should stop and rethink. Perhaps we are being overambitious. Without transparency in the police force, rule of law is unlikely to be restored. The intellectual poverty, corruption, and abuse of power among the police will only aggravate chaos, fear and unrest in the country.

Just imagine, a driver this day has to make sure there is extra money in his pocket, as he expects meeting police personnel on the road! Besides the ever-increasing number of tolls (which is another issue to discuss), with rotten luck, he may bump into a policeman asking for bribe if he is caught speeding. An illegal immigrant worker runs away from the police not because he fears that he may get arrested, but because he has not got enough money for the ‘monthly payment’.

These examples are just few. Many more are there, some indescribable. Not everyone knows how our policemen torture prisoners inhumanely, rape foreign women who are refugees or victims of human trafficking. The police regularly take ‘protection money’ from foreign workers who come here only to support their poor family members back home.

Corruption of the police institution, again, reflects the failure of the government. Unless we restore law and order in this country by revamping and restructuring our police institution fast, danger is imminent and we can kiss our 2020 dream goodbye. And when we have kissed it goodbye, we only have two groups of people to point at: the government leaders, or the police.

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