Some reflections by Datuk Dr Denison jayasooria,
Secretary General, Proham. Former member of Royal Police Commission
& also a former human rights commissioner with SUHAKAM
Q1. Has the last 10-15 years of policing been successful? How can we - police, business and civil society - help maintain security?
They have facilitated networking with Rukun Tetangga (neighbourhood watch) and residential associations on gated communities and greater community participation especially in urban areas.However they have not been very successful in street crime or addressing public perception and also on gang related crime especially organized and serious crime.
One major concern is when the public make a report on some crime, police feedback is weak and lacks a personal touch. It was different in the past when we had sergeants who played a key role in keeping in touch with local residents especially in small town and rural neighbourhoods. Feeling safe needs local police on the beat talking to people in the neighbourhood or visiting a family who had lodged a report on what has happened to their case.Now days’ the policemen drive around in the car or motor. There is very little personal touch and people do not really know their neighbourhood police and vice versa. This can be improved. For example in the neighbourhood I live often there is a police man or two under a pondok(tent). They do not talk or acknowledge anyone. But if they start being friendly with the neighbourhood people and getting to know the locals there will be a stronger rapport between local communities and the Police.
Q2. Is our forensic lab being utilised and do our police have forensic skills for evidence gathering?DJ- There is a very good forensic team at the Police Training centred in Cheras. Some of the officers have done their Phd and are really professional. However this is not wide spread nationwide. There is a need to have a very good forensic team at every district police headquarters. The POlice lack the professional manpower and equipments to address serious and organized crime.
It is said if a murder takes place and if one expects the central team to rush over, very often the crime scene might be disrupted and valuable evidence disturbed by others before the IO and forensic team arrives.The former Royal Police Commission made many recommendations in their report regarding this and the federal government must strengthen this unit with adequate personal, well trained and experienced. Malaysia must recruit more non police professionals so that the investigative team can be a multi-disciplinary team (chemist, psychologist, criminologist, lawyers, computer experts etc). We must strengthen CSI teams. The salary package has to be reviewed too if we want the best in investigations especially in ‘evidence based investigations’.
Q3. With the recent spate of deaths and wounds by guns, the police have pointed to former EO detainees as probable culprits. The public has been scared into thinking that preventive detention laws like the EO need to be re-introduced. Do the criminals have an upper hand or should we be looking at how to improve police investigations and intelligence gathering?DJ- Preventive detention is not the answer and to detain without trial this is a direct violation of human rights. The core of our justice system is a fair trial – a suspect or a charged person must be brought to trial in an open court system. Therefore, the key question to ask is why is the police unable to gather enough evidences on suspected criminals they already know. The former EO detainees have detailed case files. If they know who is doing what, why are they not able to bring them to open trial.
Police have not given us the break-down of how many of the former EO’s are actually involved in crime now. How many of them they arrested and tried to charge and why they could not gather the evidences needed? Police have not explained why when the EO was repealed in 2011, why no one was put on police supervision as they had the powers to do so. This would mean that a former EO detainee could not come in contact with another former EO detainee if under Police supervision order. If they did they would violate the law and they can be imprisoned for this new offence. Furthermore those under supervision cannot be associate with any gang activities - funerals or initiation ceremony where there are clear signs of gang related activities.The Minister of Home Affairs has not explained how many officers he has appointed or not appointed as inquiry officers on suspects in serious crime who are put on police supervision since the repeal of the EO. The Prevention of Crime Act (PCA) provides for the Minister to appoint anyone other than the police as inquiry officers. The Minister could appoint lawyers with criminal & legal expertise or others or any qualified person who could assist in this process
These provisions are in the Prevention of Crime Act. Why were these options not followed as there are legal provisions and institutional framework? Under the PCA police can remand the suspect for a first 14 days and subsequent 28 days for investigations and another 28 days. This is secured after 24 hours through judicial review through the courts. There are some checks and balances as both the courts and prosecution is involved including the Ministry of Home Affairs before a person is put under supervision.Therefore the approach must be towards enhancing the investigative capabilities of the police. The approach must also be multi prone one as root causes has also to be addressed such as urban poverty and equalising opportunities from a human rights framework
We can take a hard stand on crime but we must also address the contributing factors to why people get into serious and organized crime including gangs. Addressing these factors are equally important and these are related to socio-economic factors such as educational and training opportunities.Q4. Is corruption in the police force a contributory factor to the crime rate?
DJ- The Royal Police Commission report did indicated that corruption was a major issue. Gangs and those in serious and organized crime have lots of money and we must addressing policing and corruption.This is why the police commission proposed an independent police commission to investigate abuse. While we have the EAIC, the public does not have much confidence in this and since the formation of EAIC they have not been very proactive. Policing the police is very important. This must be done through better police internal supervision as well as an independent – external oversight body.
My recommendation is for the Federal Government to establish a special taskforce on serious organized crime and gangs with members from the police PDRM, KDN, Suhakam, former police commission members, MCPF, PROHAM to review the situation and take short term and long term measuresWhile the task of crime control is the role of the police, we also must recognize that all of Malaysia society must play a supporting role in addressing crime and ensuring the criminals are behind bars through the formal legal system. There can be no short cuts and any short cut would mean we are not serious in addressing the root causes and eliminating the crisis we are now in. Taking a tough stand on crime and addressing the root causes through human rights framework is the best way forward for modern Malaysia especially as we aspire to attain the 2020 vision.