Wed, 02 Jul 2003

`People have lost respect for police'

National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar has promised to provide better service and protection, and to bring his force closer to the people. However, many have a bad perception of the police force due to continued reports of blackmail and extortion. Respect for the force has diminished due to their failure to fulfill their duty "to serve and protect the public". The Jakarta Post discussed this issue with several residents in Jakarta.

Widy, 19, is a second-year student of a private university in South Jakarta. She lives in Bekasi, West Java, with her family:

I believe that the public has lost respect for the police force due to their poor performance. They should protect the people, but in fact, they even scare them through their bad conduct. That's why people avoid dealing with them.

I often drive home late at night with friends. Once a policeman stopped my car and asked to see my driving license.

They tried to blame me for violating traffic regulations, when in fact we were in the right. They tried to force us to admit we had committed a traffic violation to justify their demand for a bribe.

So, like it or not, we had to pay Rp 40,000 to settle the dispute. Well, some of my friends said the fee depends largely on the car type. The more luxurious the car, the higher the bribe they demand.

In this respect, they don't enforce discipline, but try to put the blame on motorists.

Moreover, I find many times that police officers are apathetic during traffic jams or when there are security problems in public places.

Parno, not his real name, 35, is a motorcycle taxi (ojek) driver in Slipi, West Jakarta. He lives in West Jakarta with his wife and two children:

I think that most people have lost respect for the police because many accept bribes.

Besides, as a city resident I never feel safe in public places. But if we have a lot of money we can pay them to protect us.

To be frank, I run an illegal lottery racket to get extra income. To protect my business, my boss and I have allotted a fund for security.

We have to spend Rp 300,000 a month to the local police chief. But it's not enough as his subordinates often come to us for more money.

We have to pay Rp 25,000 to each policeman. In a day, there are more or less four officers coming and pretending to check out the business.

It means we have to pay Rp 100,000 a day. We run the lottery four days a week therefore our expenses in weekly bribes is around Rp 700,000.

Well, with the money we hope they will safeguard our business because we realize that it is illegal. I guess such a practice is just a simple illustration of how police officers back many kinds of illegal businesses.

In fact, I just feel that we will never feel safe unless we set aside a lot for protection money.

Indraswari, 29, is an employee with a private company in Central Jakarta. She lives in Bendungan Hilir, South Jakarta, with her friends:

I feel the police have lost the respect of the public due to their poor performance and mentality.

They fail to protect and serve the public. People abide by laws and traffic regulations because they don't want to deal with them.

Dealing with the police means paying a bribe to be let off the hook.

Therefore, it is no wonder that respect for the police has faded. People prefer to take the law into their own hands against criminals rather than calling the police for help.

So, I would say that people in general remain skeptical about the police, regardless of the improvement in their physical appearance.

-- Leo Wahyudi S