Sat, 15 May 2004

Poor education blamed for police violence

Abdul Khalik, Jakarta

Observers are blaming poor education, inadequate training and the absence of external control as the root causes of police violence and inability to anticipate conflict across the country.

"After almost five years of reform, the police are still not professional. Several cases of violence involving police personnel, such as in Makassar and Ambon, exemplify their failure to serve the people," said Rashid Lubis, the chairman of non- governmental organization Police Watch.

Dozens of fully armed police personnel stormed the campus of the Indonesian Muslim University (UMI) in Makassar, South Sulawesi on May 1, brutally beating students in the compound, including those who were attending lectures.

At least 61 students were injured in the incident that forced National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar to dismiss South Sulawesi Police chief Insp. Gen. Jusuf Maggabarani and Greater Makassar Police chief Sr. Comr. Jose Rizal Effendy.

The public also blamed police for failing to anticipate the April 25 violence in Ambon, in which at least 38 people were killed and 238 others injured.

According to Rashid, the incidents showed something was very wrong with the education and training of the police.

"Because of their militaristic style of education, many police personnel find it natural to beat people, or demonstrators. No wonder so many violent incidents occur," Rashid told The Jakarta Post.

Adrianus Meliala, a noted criminologist from the University of Indonesia, said police had replaced most militaristic subjects with subjects like human rights, conflict resolution, and public relations.

"We have not seen the impact yet because the new curriculum was implemented two years ago and only 50,000 personnel have since graduated. The remaining 280,000 personnel are still working within the old paradigm," Adrianus told the Post.

He said fresh recruits faced huge challenges. Due to their training, their ideas were sometimes contrary to those of their colleagues and immediate superiors.

"It will take six to seven years before these new recruits take over the command. Hopefully, die-hard militaristic values will wither away as new ideas emerge," said Adrianus.

Rashid and Adrianus agreed that lack of social control gave the police freedom to do whatever they pleased.

They proposed the planned National Police commission be established immediately, to monitor and asses the performance of the police, especially new recruits.

Rashid said the commission was urgently needed as the police, as an organization, had very weak internal control.

He said disagreement on the composition of the commission had delayed its establishment.

"The government wants officials to occupy the majority of seats on the commission, while many parties insist that public representatives, such as non-governmental organizations and academics, hold the majority," said Rashid.

The planned commission would have the authority to assess the police, receive the complaints of the public and recommend the appointment -- or replacement of -- the National Police chief.

Noted legal expert Pradjoto, meanwhile said that many police personnel were underqualified due to an unclear recruitment and training process.

Pradjoto said many banking crimes and other specific cases, such as environmental and intellectual property rights cases, were left unsolved because police investigators had insufficient knowledge of those areas.

"They simply don't understand the problems. Corruption and banking cases -- anything related to the economy -- requires expertise. They cannot match the criminals. I propose that officers handling such cases must, at least, have bachelors in business and law," he said.

He added that the amount of money involved in such cases complicated the process. Suspects were happy to share the money with investigators to halt the investigation, he said.

Rashid also said his organization found, during 2001 and 2002, that out of hundreds of special crimes reported, not one was handed over to prosecutors.

David Ridwan Betz, chairman of the Allied Society for Monitoring State Apparatus' Work (Amipka), said bribery was still rampant in the police recruitment process, creating incapable personnel.

"We still find bribery in the recruitment process. The police headquarters has done little (to eradicate the practice) so far," said David.