Mon, 08 Dec 2003

Cases of recalcitrant police officers increase

Tony Hotland , The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

City police efforts throughout the year to restore their tarnished image were largely ineffective given the increase in cases committed by defiant personnel from 206 cases last year to 234 this year.

In a speech delivered during the commemoration of the Jakarta Police's 54th Anniversary on Saturday, deputy chief Brig. Gen. Nanan Soekarna said the police had taken firm action against the 379 personnel involved.

"We have given penalties to those engaged in the cases. We have even dismissed 80 officers," he said.

The cases are related to, among other things, insubordination, desertion, ethics code violations such as weapon misuse, and criminal conduct such as embezzlement, fraud and bribery.

Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Makbul Padmanagara could not attend the ceremony because he was with National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar who was on a visit to China.

Nanan argued that the wide scope of police operations and weak monitoring increase the chances of such offenses taking place.

He, therefore, asked the public to take an active role in the monitoring the police and informing police authorities about the performance of their personnel.

"It's very difficult to monitor each officer on the field. So we want the public to help us by reporting cases of unlawful conduct among our personnel," he said.

"And, don't bribe the officers in order to pass the recruitment test to join the force or when you get ticketed, for example."

Nanan added the police would welcome criticism in a bid to change their superior or "arrogant" image into a "civil" image, and to create a "clean, skilled, honorable, and lawful" force.

The police force was separated from the Indonesian Military in 2000, but a repressive style of conduct still lingers within the civilian force.

Last May, a team of police were involved in a shooting in which stray bullets killed two young girls, and injured the mother of one of them in the Taman Sari area of West Jakarta.

The officers said the officers involved would soon face trial as ordinary civilians.

Observer Rashid H. Lubis commented that the police had not overcome their internal problems, which was holding them back in implementing reform.

"Professionalism is still out of question unless the police first manage to solve their internal problems," the executive director of police watchdog Polwatch told The Jakarta Post.

He pointed to what takes place inside interrogation rooms as the status quo in the "culture of violence", citing Polwatch's recent interviews of criminals jailed at Cipinang Penitentiary, East Jakarta.

"Eighty percent of the inmates we interviewed revealed that torture, beating and electrocution were common during interrogation," he said.

In the ceremony, Nanan put emphasis on the police program to protect the city during Christmas and New Year celebrations.

"We still put bomb threats at the top of the list...we will take all necessary measures to prevent them," said Nanan.