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PDRM, Bullies or Defenders.
The police force of London was reorganised in 1829 based on the recommendations put forward by the Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel. As a result, the police eventually became nicknamed "bobbies". Bobbies wear a uniform that is non-military in appearance. Their only regular weapon is a short, wooden truncheon, which is kept out of sight and may not be employed except in cases of self-defence or to restore order. Bobbies who are deployed for dangerous missions may carry firearms for that particular occasion. When summing up his reforms of the police force, Peel stated that "the police are the public and the public are the police."
This should be the standard of policing that all governments should adhere to in maintaining peace and harmony in any country.
On the opposite end of this spectrum is the institution of what is generally known as the "secret police". These would be intelligence agencies, police agencies or law enforcement agencies that operate behind the veil of secrecy. Many times, such institutions operate beyond what is permitted by the law to protect the interests and political power of individual dictators or authoritarian regimes.
Instead of transparently enforcing the rule of law and allowing itself to be subject to public scrutiny as a normal police agency would, many of these secret police agencies exist specifically to operate above and beyond the law in order to suppress political dissent through clandestine acts of terror and intimidation targeted against enemies of the ruling political class.
Such secret police agencies tend to be accountable only to the executive branch of a government, often times only to the most powerful person in the country. They operate, at best, in partial secrecy where most, if not all, of their operations are deliberately obscured and hidden from public oversight. Such authority allows these secret police agencies to bolster a government's control over their own citizens while at the same time provide allowances for a government to deny prior knowledge to any violations of civil violations.
As a result, such secret police agencies make an excellent vehicle for overt and covert political repression.
The type of police we have in Malaysia
In Malaysia, we are "privileged" to have in the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) not just the two variants of police agencies as mentioned above, but an additional one. The third variant that Malaysia has can be termed as "loose cannons" - the trigger-happy, cop-turned-criminal, underworld-linked, death-in-custody-perpetrators type. So it looks like we have the good "bobby", the "secret police", and finally, the "loose cannons".
One of the main reasons for the existence of such loose cannons lies right at the outset - recruitment. In Malaysia, comprehensive pre-recruitment screening with psychological profiling do not exist in the PDRM.
Bear in mind that such psychological profiling does not seek to determine a candidate's sanity or lack thereof. Failing such a profile would not mean that the candidate is crazy. It merely strongly suggests that a career in law enforcement is not the best fit for that individual.
A career in law enforcement places a lot of demands on an individual and it can be emotionally, mentally and physically draining. There will be days when one is forced to be firm yet polite despite encountering tremendous verbal abuse, and there will be other days when one is forced to stay calm and collected in scenarios where horrific incidents have occurred. So it isn't too much to assume that not everyone is cut out for such a career.
While it takes all kinds of personalities to make up an effective PDRM, there are certain character traits that all police officers should share. Conversely, there are also certain character traits that all police officers should not have. Psychological profiling such as the one described above focuses on identifying such undesirable traits.
The traits that a police officer should have
The pre-recruitment evaluation of potential police officers should include a look out for psychological markers such as these - impulse control, general intelligence, good judgement, ability to perform repetitive work, reasonable courage, honesty and integrity, personal biases or the lack thereof, ability to tolerate stress, motivation in career choice, dependability, ability to work under supervision, appropriate attitudes towards sexuality, prior drug use, and pre-existing ethnic and religious prejudices.
The list above is, of course, not exhaustive. Unfortunately, there have apparently quite a few studies to suggest that many of our police officers lack some of the more positive traits stated above.
Police officers are generally expected to be on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Proper meals, adequate rests, predictable working hours, fixed holidays, etc. are luxuries that many police officers do not get. This means that a typical police officer is subjected to levels of mental stress that are beyond that of a normal person. This can result in a police officer acting as the people's worst enemy rather than their protector and friend.
In the mental healthcare sector, a standard operating procedure exists whereby the period of interaction between the healthcare personnel and the patient is limited to a fixed period, after which the personnel is reassigned to a different duty. This helps to ensure the mental health of the personnel is not negatively affected by their work with mentally impaired patients.
Unfortunately no such parallels exist with the PDRM. Police officers are generally expected to stay on their assignments until the case is closed. Add this with the other job related stress factors mentioned above, and you can see how insanity can gradually creep in.
Whose job is it to improve the police officer's lot?
A cursory study at the number of reports of crimes as well as incidences of police brutality in our country will yield very alarming figures. One can easily compile volumes of records on the inefficiency and incompetency of the PDRM over the last thirty years. It is therefore mind boggling to consider why the PDRM has remained so reluctant to improve the situation after all these years.
Instead, the PDRM has allowed the situation to get so bad to the point that the people have generally lost their confidence with them. The general sentiment is that the PDRM can no longer be trusted anymore as whatever it acts upon will eventually be manipulated to serves the interest of those who pull their strings.
The only substantial effort seen as far as improvement is concerned is the creation of buzz-words and slogans by the PDRM, making statements which they never seem to be able to live up to. The PDRM says that the police should be allowed to take care of matters involving the police but it is a bit difficult to see how they would be able to do it effectively when it appears that they are at the mercy of underworld bosses are able to buy favours from the bad apples and politicians who are well placed within the system.
Did not the former Inspector General of the Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan, himself claim that the PDRM's work was constantly subject to interference from politicians. And was not Musa himself implicated with underworld ties?
It does appear that the way things are going, the PDRM will end up policing not for the people but for certain vested interests.
And if UMNO-BN remains adamant in not wanting to create an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to stop the rot, one fears that the PDRM will eventually morph into an institution of lunatics.