Thu, 03 Jul 2003

`The police's mind-set hasn't changed at all'

The National Police's 57th anniversary on Tuesday might be a good time for them to reflect on their poor performance, particularly following their independent status since 2000, apart from the Indonesian Military's direct control. Many say the police have yet to show much, if any, improvement, despite the enhancement of their status. A number of Jakartans shared their experience with The Jakarta Post.

Heri, 36, is an entrepreneur who makes banners and other printed materials. He lives in Pondok Betung, South Jakarta, with his wife and son:

I haven't seen any significant improvement in police performance -- except for their shiny, new patrol cars -- since they split from the military.

Generally, their performance is still far from satisfactory, despite their slogan, 'to serve and protect the people.'

They still obviously bestow special privileges on the wealthy, and on the other side, they ignore the public's right to feel secure.

I dare say that their mentality remains the same, or even worse than it used to be.

Nonetheless, I believe that there are many police officers who are still clean and responsible about doing their duties. But their number is far less than the majority of unscrupulous officers.

They are not close to the people in a real sense. My son sees them all as scary monsters, who always want to abuse people.

In the past, we were afraid of dealing with police due to law breaking. But now, we are afraid of being extorted by them for money if we get involved with them on some case.

I was very sad to recall that once I saw a police officer extort a bajaj (three-wheeled car) driver for a pack of cigarettes. He didn't seem to give a hoot about how poor the driver was.

I'm sure that paints the most accurate picture of the police, in general -- that they don't care about the people, they are only into money, and they flaunt the law.

Item, not his real name, 43, is a tire repairman in South Jakarta. He lives nearby with his wife and daughter:

It's no surprise that there is nothing new about the police. I don't see any betterment on their part, despite their independence from the military.

I can't say anything positive about them. I can only speak to that which I have seen here on this street and other places like, near my house, where there is a high-ranking police officer in a residential area with many guards on duty.

Every night, police officers are supposed to patrol the neighborhood here because the place also houses the residences of many other police and military members. But ironically, the area is very susceptible to car theft. A couple of days ago, someone had his car stolen when he parked it there to have lunch.

However, I always wonder why the place here is relatively safe from other street crimes.

I can't deny allegations that some police or military members are often involved in such vehicle thefts. I'm aware that money is all that matters for those officers, after all is said and done.

Tohid, 30, is an office boy with a private company in West Jakarta. He lives in Kebayoran Lama, South Jakarta, with his friend:

I guess the police, to some extent, still have respect from the public, even though it depends greatly on the case they handle.

Well, I appreciate the immediate and successful investigation of the Bali bombings. In that case, their achievement has been praiseworthy.

At least it help boost the police's image and regain the public respect following their deteriorating performance in general.

We can only judge them by their track record, and mostly that means a lot of unprofessional behavior. I would rather see them just be fair to everyone.

They seem to have tried hard to curb crimes. We can see how the media exposes their efforts to arrest people.

However, the poor law enforcement on the part of all elements has eroded the country's image in many ways. Law enforcers only favor the privileged groups of people.

What the police do actually portrays a big rotten picture of our leaders, if I may say.

On the other hand, I can't deny the fact that there are many police officers who have a poor mentality in such a way that they are always involved in wrongdoings.

Actually, my little brother is a police officer. Sometimes I warn him not to commit any mischievous deeds.

Nonetheless, I also realize that to err as a matter of fact is very human. Once I found he was involved in apparently extorting the boss of some gambling dens.

-- Leo Wahyudi S.