(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): I commend
the new Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai for the idea of
the formation of an unofficial committee comprising social activists
from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO), human rights groups and the Bar
Council to help the police review and improve their image.
This is a small step in the right direction - a distinct improvement from the traditional head-in-the-sand ostrich attitude of the police that nothing was ever wrong with police image or police conduct causing a grave crisis of public confidence in the independence, professionalism and integrity of the police force.
The shocking episode of the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor, committing the lawless and criminal act of assaulting the former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim - blindfolded, handcuffed and completely defenceless - in the very inner sanctum of the police high command in Bukit Aman on the first night of the latter’s arrest on Sept. 20, 1998, had not come as a total surprise - as police violence and brutality against those detained is not new, few and rare in the country.
What is shocking is that the No. 1 Policeman could so blatantly commit such lawlessness in the very inner santum of police high command in Bukit Aman in the presence of other police personnel, including the highest top police officers, without any hesitation, compunction or scruple - suggesting that what Rahim Noor had done was not very foreign to the existing culture in the police force!
What is urgently needed now is not just a mechanism for public input by social activists and human rights groups to enable the police to get appropriate views from those outside of the force on the image of the police, but a mechanism where the public can be satisfied that gross police abuses of power could be independently investigated and dealt with, without fear or favour.
It will be most tragic if Norian Mai thinks that what the police suffers is merely an image problem, when the more serious problem suffererd by the police is public confidence in its independence, professionalism and integrity.
For this reason, Norian Mai should seriously ask the police high command
to give support to the proposal for the establishment of an independent
Police Ombudsman with powers to receive and investigate public complaints
about police abuses of power.
The informal Committee of social activists, human rights groups and Bar Council to give input about police image is a small step in the right direction but very inadequate and no substitute for an independent Police Ombudsman to investigate complaints against police abuses
For instance, one burning issue about police conduct is the trigger-happy police shoot-outs involving the killing of innocent people who are not hard-core criminals.
There had been a recent spate of such police shootouts, including:
Last week, Parliament was informed that in the past 10 years, 635 people had been shot dead by the police. Can Norian Mai give a full account to satisfy the Malaysian public that no innocent people were killed by the police in all these 635 cases.
As part of its campaign to restore public confidence in the police force and regain a good image for the police, I call on the new IGP to issue a full report on the killing of the 635 people in the past ten years - giving full details about the circumstances of the killing of confirmed/suspected criminals and those who were innocent of any suspected crime.
Or will the Police give all information about the killing of 635 people in police shootouts in the past ten years to the Informal Committee to allow it to issue a report after investigating whether any innocent people had been killed?
The first important proposal that the Informal Committee on Police Image should make is that the government should set up an Independent Police Ombudsman to receive and investigate all public complaints about abuses of power, as it is the first essential step to restore public confidence and the police image.