Sat, 05 Jul 2003

`Low pay and easy opportunities make police tolerate infractions'

The police have been at the receiving end of sustained public criticism over their perceived lack of professionalism. Many say the police have yet to improve their performance despite having been separated from the military in 2000. The Jakarta Post discussed the force's poor public image with several police officers, and asked what needs to be done to counter it.

Marto, not his real name, 29, is a police officer with the Central Jakarta Police. He lives in Pancoran, South Jakarta, with his wife and son:

I think that there are some irregularities committed by a number of unscrupulous police officers. They are willing to engage in mischievous activities for their own benefit.

There are three types of police officer. First, there are those who are afraid to do something wrong. Second, there are those who are accustomed to doing so. And third, there are those are eager to engage in such activities.

I think it is quite common for some people to ask for money in gambling dens, prostitution complexes and massage parlors. It's not only police officers who do this, but also military personnel.

Asking for regular kickbacks from such dirty businesses is acceptable to some extent since low-ranking police officers are poorly paid.

I think there are many easy opportunities to do this. So why shouldn't we benefit from them? After all, making money now is getting tougher.

I'm sure that someday police officers will improve their performance provided that their welfare is vastly improved. If this were to happen, they would be able to enforce the law consistently.

Better pay will help improve the welfare of low-ranking officers, but will have no effect on the high-ranking ones who also abuse the law for their own benefit.

On the other hand, I partly blame the organized crime rings that manage to bribe us so as to help protect their dirty businesses.

Ndoko, not his real name, 27, is a police officer stationed in South Jakarta. He lives in Bekasi with his wife:

I think the public image of the police is partly true as the people see that many of us are unscrupulous.

I guess peole are also hypocritical. They blame us for taking bribes, for instance. We do this often only because people come begging us for help. We often want to resist their pleas so as to protect our reputation. But I have to admit, we are just human beings, and also find it hard to refuse temptation.

I don't want to be hypocritical by saying I refuse such compelling temptations as worldly goods. And don't forget, living in the city is tougher than ever now.

So, we cannot blame each other because both the police and the people are to blame. It is very human.

Sometimes, I ask for money from gambling dens or illegal lottery touts.

Actually, we often raid their bosses and arrest them, but again they always beg for mercy and give us money to let them go. So, I don't have the heart to take them away.

Perhaps improved welfare for low-ranking police officers would help minimize such irregularities. Nonetheless, I'm sure this will just remain a dream, even over the next three years. It will be impossible.

Ary, not his real name, 38, is attached to a police subprecinct in Central Jakarta. He lives in Cikarang with his wife and three children:

I don't agree with all the blame people heap on us as I feel that now police officers have improved greatly compared to the time when we were still integrated with the Indonesian Military.

Our performance has been improving. We already have sophisticated technology installed in our patrol cars. Besides, we get a meal allowance of Rp 10,000 per day.

I believe that our superiors and commanders are now promoting the enforcement of tougher discipline in the force.

If an officer is found guilty of disobedience, he will be discharged and punished.

I myself have to be much more watchful now, and refrain from misconduct. There are many police internal affairs officers spying on their fellow officers to find out whether they are violating the law.

However, the welfare of police officers is still far from adequate, and that's the reason why violations are tolerated. I have told my wife to properly manage our money so that it will stretch far enough.

-- Leo Wahyudi S.