Mon, 07 Feb 2000

Observers regret alleged police involvement in crimes

JAKARTA (JP): Observers in the legal and human rights circles expressed concern on Sunday over some police officers' alleged involvement in a series of criminal acts.

Legal expert Satjipto Rahardjo, criminologist Adrianus Meliala and psychologist Saparinah Sadli said separately that there should be a systematic resolution for the officers' alleged wrongdoing.

"There should be a thorough investigation into the five officers of the elite Police Mobile Brigade to find out whether the robbery was merely done as individuals or it has become a symptom of the force," Satjipto, a law professor at Diponegoro University in Semarang, Central Java, told The Jakarta Post in a telephone interview.

"Since they have weapons, it would be dangerous for society if the officers' wrongdoing was a part of the police force's general characteristics," he said.

Satjipto was referring to an armed burglary of a house last Thursday morning in Kebayoran Lama, South Jakarta, where five brigade officers were reportedly involved. The five officers, part of a 10-member group, were arrested the following day after allegedly robbing two luxury cars and allegedly killing the house's security guard.

The spokesman of the National Police, Brig. Gen. Erald Dotulong, said on Friday that the police force would fire the five officers, Yusron, Novianto, Suharsono, Miftahul Huda and Tatit Dwi, who are all second sergeants. They would also face court proceedings, he said.

Satjipto, also a member of the National Commission on Human Rights, said there was an unspoken perception among the police that they were hired to safeguard rich residents, who have enjoyed the fruit of economic development.

"This perspective makes the police compare the wealth of the rich, who they protect, with their economic situation," he said, while citing a second sergeant in the force is paid Rp 200,000 (US$28.50) per month.

"The income gap has brought mental complications to the police officers, with them thinking they have received unfair treatment and they can do anything to get a bigger revenue."

"The police force's failure to maintain strict control over its members and to increase their wealth will easily lead to an abuse of police duties, and in extreme cases their involvement in a robbery," he said.

Satjipto urged the brigade to motivate its members to increase the force's pride.

"If all members of the force are proud of their corps, they would not do anything bad which would tarnish its good reputation," he said.

Criminologist Adrianus Meliala, however, reminded that people should not generalize all police officers as bad.

Adrianus, also a lecturer at the University of Indonesia School of Criminology, said a robbery was the most serious abuse of public trust committed by the police.

"The abuse of public trust can take any form, such as taking illegal bribes from motorists on the street. But a robbery is the most serious one," he said.

Adrianus said different divisions within the police force sought additional income through different ways.

"Police detectives seek 'cash compensation' from criminals in return for their release, while traffic policemen take illegal payoffs from motorists.

"Meanwhile, brigade officers don't have a 'target domain', therefore they might commit a robbery," he said.

He also stressed that not all police officers were bad.

"We should apply the principle of 'apples in the basket' when understanding the police force. It is impossible that all apples in the basket are good ones. Some would be spoiled," he told the Post.

Meanwhile, Saparinah Sadli said the robbery only added to fears of insecurity within society.

"It is ironic that members of an institution who should safeguard the public, have become the robbers. Who else should we rely on to safeguard people?" she asked.

Saparinah, also a member of the rights commission, demanded the police restore a feeling of safety within the community.

"The police must punish the officers appropriately for their deeds in a transparent manner," she said. (asa)