As IPCMC looms, police rank-and-file long for even basic amenities

Justin Ong
Malaysian police say they do not even have the basic tools needed to perform their duties. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 11 — Lack of funds to maintain basic infrastructure such as surveillance cameras at police facilities are making law enforcement personnel anxious about the move to introduce civilian oversight of their agency.

According to The Straits Times (ST), junior officers noted that surveillance systems, among others, at detention centres and lock-ups were not fully operational despite long-standing complaints.

With the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) now nearing reality, they fear its introduction could leave them vulnerable to allegations they might not be able to disprove.

“If the IPCMC is set up without having all the necessary equipment ready, it wouldn’t be fair to us. There’s no way we can readily provide evidence if we’re implicated in a case,” ST quoted an anonymous police sergeant as saying.

“I would know because I had a hard time proving my innocence when I was implicated in a custodial death case that happened in our lock-up.”

The Pakatan Harapan government tabled the IPCMC Bill in the previous parliamentary meeting and moved closer to delivering the coalition’s election pledge to introduce the civilian oversight panel that a royal commission of inquiry first mooted in 2005.

While the move was a major victory for the coalition, it has also pushed police personnel to take a closer look at their agency’s lack of resources and their own pay levels.

While richer countries such as Singapore, the US, the UK, Japan, and South Korea have introduced body cameras for police in order to protect them from spurious allegations of abuse, Malaysian police said they do not even have the basic tools needed to perform their duties.

Some claimed to ST that they’ve had to buy toner and paper for printers at their own stations if they want to have something printed.

Others said the ageing fleet of patrol vehicles meant crime prevention patrols stood little chance of capturing criminals who often use high-powered luxury vehicles to escape.

Still more have asked how policemen are expected to resist corruption when they are paid barely enough to survive, yet must still pay for basic items needed in their daily duties.

“With our current infrastructure and salary, it’s hard to operate effectively. It’s even harder to make ends meet, especially if we’re stationed in a big city,” one policeman told ST.

“Integrity aside, those who are desperate would surely be tempted to accept bribes because after deductions and purchasing things that should have been provided to us, there is barely enough to stay afloat.”

Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Bador achieved what no other predecessor could manage and convinced his agency to accept the IPCMC, telling them it would do as much for them as it would for the public.

The IGP said he was aware of the funding issues afflicting the police.

“This is due to uneven distribution (of the budget) and constant change in the working environment,” he was quoted as saying.

Hamid explained that many of the expenses were incurred from the movement of personnel from state to state or department to department, saying he could resolve this with the help of the Home Ministry.

The national police chief also acknowledged that pay levels were low for his men but said it spoke volumes about their integrity that most remain dedicated and trustworthy.

“I have always emphasised that security is an expensive business. While waiting for it (IPCMC) to be passed, the police can make improvements on its own,” Hamid told ST.

In 2005, the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management proposed the formation of IPCMC following a spat of custodial death.

Vehement police objections at the time led the Abdullah administration to instead introduce the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC).

The EAIC has been criticised as ineffectual as the commission lacks punitive or enforcement powers and may only make recommendations to other agencies.

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