Mon, 24 Feb 2003

`What if police lend their firearms?'

Military and police uniforms are freely traded in Jakarta. The absence of proper regulation and the unwillingness of vendors to demand the legitimate ID cards of the buyers will inevitably lead to tricksters masquerading as officers for their own benefit. The Jakarta Post talked to some urban residents about it:

Hasan, 32, is a vendor selling police and military uniforms and insignia in Senen, Central Jakarta. He resides in Kramat Pulo, Central Jakarta with his wife and daughter:

I realize that selling such uniforms and attributes is prone to abuse by con men. There are many such people who use the uniforms to extort money.

But what can I do to prevent such things? I cannot ask visitors to produce an ID card to figure out whether they are a member of the military, police or just civilians.

If I did so, my kiosk here would not lure any more buyers. That's why I am simply concerned about sales. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to run my business well.

Besides, I have been selling military and police uniforms for almost 35 years. I have a license from the city administration, the city police and the Jakarta military district. So, I don't need to worry about it as I consider my business legal.

My intuition many times tells me whether the buyers are really police or military officers or just civilians who have bad intentions. Usually, those people say that they are buying the uniforms for their relatives or as a souvenirs for their family. But, I don't really care what the motive of the person is and any potential wrongdoing on their part.

Jan, not his real name, 28, is a police intelligence officer who resides in South Jakarta with his wife and son:

I reckon that now there are many bogus police officers who are a threat to public security.

We have just arrested two con men masquerading as the high- ranking police officers while attempting to extort money from a star-rated hotel in Jakarta.

Fortunately the hotel management reported them to the police as they were not wearing the insignia and badges properly.

I believe that it is not impossible that there are some undisciplined police officers who are leading this racket. Besides, deserted officers are likely to resort to some wrongdoing as they might still have some hard feelings about the force or disappointment with their commanders.

But, not all discharged or deserted police officers are bad guys. Former officers who have even been jailed many times for breaking the law could still improve their lives and become good civilians, vendors, or entrepreneurs.

I agree that the free sale of military and police uniforms is likely to tarnish the image of the security forces. Civilians are free to buy complete police and military uniforms and this could encourage them to use them for their own benefit.

The sellers only think about profit. They don't see the importance of examining the buyers' ID cards.

Nevertheless, if I may say so, the existence of such a market here actually provides us with more choices in buying our uniforms. Frankly, the materials distributed by the police usually are not of good quality.

I suggest that it'd be better to issue a certain regulation and procedure to govern the sales of such attire. The police should take strong actions to stop bogus police officers.

Amin, 24, is an employee at a ceramic company in Tangerang. He lives in Tangerang, Banten:

I think the city police should issue a regulation to govern the sale of military and police uniforms.

If necessary the illegal vendors and the people behind the business should be investigated. Otherwise, the bogus police and military officers will remain a threat to public security.

I know the real situation as I encounter such fraudulent officers almost every day. Most of them are just hoodlums who pose as officers to extort money from surrounding vendors.

Many times they commit crimes masquerading as police officers by robbing civilians. They spend their "earnings" on alcohol before committing the next crime.

One of my fellow workers even has three sets of military uniforms complete with shoes. Another friend has the complete head-to-toe attire that he claimed he borrowed from a presidential security guard who happens to be his friend.

I cannot imagine what would happen if police or military personnel are also willing to lend their firearms to such people.

-- Leo Wahyudi S