Wed, 22 Nov 2000

The newly-formed dual function of the national police

By Adnan Pandupraja

JAKARTA (JP): Despite the lingering public distaste for the term "dual function" of the military, the concept is still incorporated in the Law on Soldiers of the Indonesian Military (TNI) and there is yet to be any sign that it will be removed from the document.

Somehow, many people fail to associate the concept with the police force despite the fact that it had once been part of the TNI. This is due to the fact that for three decades, the police were marginalized as a result of the police institution having been systematically subordinated to the military.

This subordination invites the sympathy of some people, especially when they compare the police institution with the three forces in the Indonesian armed forces.

How is the police force in postseparation period? Obviously, the decades of subordination has had its injurious consequence; the police force has become very dependent. The public has become skeptical of the law enforcers' ability do their job well.

Many cases have showcased the domination of the military over the police. Would, in the prereform era, the police, for example, have pursued the drug abuse case involving Agus Isrok, a member of the army special force Kopassus and son of then army chief of staff General Subagyo?

The reform and the separation of the police force from the military have brought about some commendable changes, but special attention must be paid to the capability of police in intelligence.

The recent unrest in Salemba, Central Jakarta, where five motorized vehicles belonging to the TNI were set on fire, clearly indicated the weakness of police intelligence and vividly illustrated the fruits of a policy of subordinating the police to the military.

A simple question that next emerged: How could the police be taken off-guard about a massive rally being planned? How could they not be able to prevent mobs from forming?

Regardless of the likelihood of a political motive behind these rallies (i.e., an attempt to discredit the government by pushing the police to the corner), it is a fact that until then the police had received intelligence information from the military.

So, when the police had to be suddenly separated from the rest of the TNI, they seemed to be at a loss over what to do. Hence the helplessness and loss of self-confidence on the part of the police.

President Abdurrahman Wahid is certainly aware of the inability of the police to ensure the public sense of security. Yet he continues to display great confidence in the police; for instance, he has made plans to assign the police to safeguard the president and other important state officials--a duty until now entrusted to the TNI.

This may not be the best choice, given the condition of the police at present but the move could serve to empower the police and so could gain public support.

It is worth noting that prior to the separation from the TNI, the police actually had three functions to perform. The first was their sociopolitical function, which, unfortunately, has been frequently abused by certain members of the police and the TNI.

The second function, which is the essence of the police institution, is to maintain security and order. The third function has to do with the judicial system--here the police act as investigating agents for criminal acts as regulated in the criminal procedural code (KUHAP).

Prompted by the reform movement, then president BJ Habibie initiated the separation of the police from the Indonesian military through his Presidential Instruction No. 2/1999. Abdurrahman Wahid formalized the motion through Presidential Decree No 89/2000. Since then, the police assume only a dual function, namely the security and order function, and the judicial function as investigating officers.

Let us study the two functions of the police.

Both the rate and quality of crimes have escalated in the past few months. Thieves have been burned alive, victims of murder have been mutilated, riots have broken up in many places and people allegedly practicing witchcraft have been killed, to mention but a few.

In the first half of the year 2000 alone, there were 42 incidents of mobbing to death of alleged perpetrators of thievery in Jakarta, Bogor, Tangerang and Bekasi and none of these cases have been duly processed.

The police seem to have failed in dealing with seemingly planned and systematically practiced mob anarchism. Their oft- cited excuse is inadequate human resources.

The ideal proportion of police officers to the population is 1: 200-300, according to international standards. This means that one policeman is assigned to monitor only 200 to 300 people, as is done in a number of advanced countries such as England where the ratio is 1:200.

In Indonesia, the prevailing ratio is 1 : 1,400 and observers say it will take the country 30 years to reach the ideal figure. Naturally, even if some policemen carry firearms, they will prefer to run helter-skelter rather than dying for nothing when dealing with a mob of people much bigger in number.

Next, it is important to consider the function of the police as investigating officers which they will not be able to carry out properly unless some improvement is achieved.

The Jakarta Police record of criminal acts between January and June 2000 showed that every month the regional police received an average of 1,400 criminal case reports from the community. At the district level, police received an average of 50 to 60 reports on criminal cases filed by the community every month .

The same report says that each district-level police unit claimed to have investigated at least 60 percent of the reported crimes. However, a district-level police unit chief in Jakarta had honestly acknowledged that actually each district-level police unit in Jakarta was able to investigate only a maximum of 40 percent of the cases reported.

The higher figure was reported because the district-level police chiefs did not want to be badly evaluated as it would hamper their promotions.

As a matter of fact, the actual number of criminal cases is usually higher than what is reported owing to public distrust of the police and their performance. Police certainly face constraints that have rendered them unable to increase their investigation rate, the two most serious being a severe lack of funds and poor and limited human resources.

Addressing the question of human resources shortage, chief of the Jakarta Police Inspector General Nurfaizi has said that of some two hundred plainclothed police officers that each district- level police unit has, only two to three are law graduates. The rest are of a lower educational level.

It can be imagined therefore how they can complete their investigation into the criminal cases that are reported every day. Worse still, the budget allocated for investigation purposes is very limited, between Rp 40,000 and Rp 50,000 a case.

Nurfaizi's statement also explains why the police fail to properly play their judicial role. As they are baffled by limitations, police earn less respect from the community.

This crisis of confidence could, in turn, explain why members of the public have increasingly taken the law into their own hands, resulting in the death of dozens of people who might have been innocent.

Aware of this problem, the President, by virtue of his Presidential Decree No. 89/2000, has instructed the police to coordinate with the home ministry in maintaining security and order and with the Attorney General's Office when dealing with judicial matters.

The writer is secretary-general of the Indonesian Police Watch (Polwatch) at the School of Law in the University of Indonesia.