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Jakarta Post

Reforming the police

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, August 28, 2020   /   08:20 am
Reforming the police Personnel of National Police's Mobile Brigade walk toward the Medan Police headquarters on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019 to support security measures following the suicide bombing at the headquarters. (Antara/Irsan Mulyadi)

The ongoing probe into two police generals for allegedly accepting bribes to help fugitive tycoon Djoko S. Tjandra to avoid arrest is by no means an ideal prelude to the succession of the new chief of police, which is slated for January next year. In fact, many have linked the bribery case to the rivalry among contenders for the police’s top post.

An internal investigation has confirmed the generals, Insp. Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte and Brig. Gen. Prasetyo Utomo, admitted to accepting money from Djoko. As head of the National Police’s international relations division, Napoleon removed Djoko’s red notice status and Prasetyo as head of the Civil Servant Investigator Supervisory and Coordination Bureau issued bogus travel documents for Djoko, the investigation has found.

The National Police finally captured Djoko with the assistance of the Malaysian police in Kuala Lumpur, ending the businessman’s 11 years on the run from justice.

As if to add insult to injury, the Bali Police punished two officers for extorting a Japanese tourist for a minor traffic violation in December 2019, only after video footage showing the cops in the act went viral recently.

Not all cops are bad, but the many officers who readily compromise their integrity for money have resulted in a generalized perception that the police institution is corrupt. Public suspicion about the police’s lack of commitment to anticorruption found an answer in a series of conflicts between the corps and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in the past.

We still remember a group of police officers besieging the KPK building in October 2012 as the antigraft body was investigating a scam involving former traffic police director Djoko Susilo and several attempts by the police to criminalize KPK leaders.

The bribery case involving Napoleon and Prasetyo came into the open following a tip-off to police watchdog Indonesia Police Watch. Without the tip-off, the scandal might have remained under the carpet.

The public will continue to monitor the course of the investigation into the two generals, although expectations of a credible process will be stymied unless it is entrusted to an independent team.

But whatever the results of the investigation, the scandal begs the question as to how the police have implemented internal reform, which was mandated after their separation from the Indonesian Military (TNI) more than 20 years ago.

Changes of guard have happened within a span of two decades and yet the fruits of reform remain elusive to be frank. Instead, over the last few years we have witnessed the police emulate the dual function the TNI practiced in the past, as evident in the appointment of police generals to civilian posts. The unwanted consequence of this new development will be the police’s loyalty to the current ruler, rather than to the people as the true holder of sovereignty in the Republic.

The public does not care about who leads the police force, as long as the entire corps shows commitment to the spirit of reform, which is expected to shape the culture of serving and protecting, rather than abusing and intimidating, the people.