Appreciate the good cops, too

People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

– George Orwell, English novelist

By and large, I had had a good working relationship with the police in Sarawak in years gone by.

From the late 1970s to early 90s, I would come to know all the Sarawak police commissioners personally from the time of Tan Sri Hamdan Sirat to Datuk Seri Yuen Yuet Leng and Datuk Mohamad Yassin.

There were other senior officers like Tan Sri Jamil Johari, Datuk Aba Robiyel Huk, Datuk Abang Abdul Wahap Abang Julai, Datuk Vincent Chapman, Vincent Khoo, Charles Chin and Abang Adris Abang Suhai, to name a few. Some had since passed on but I remember them as nice, supportive and helpful friends.

From a young journalist in Sibu to an editor in Kuching later, getting to know and cooperating with them had helped me in my profession as a media man.

I was much younger then and these were senior guys whom I respected. I also came to understand and appreciate policing better in a way as a result of my ties with them.

Being a police officer was no easy job; the higher your rank, the tougher it was with the enormous duties and heavy responsibilities on your shoulder.

Discipline is an important quality for the men in blue, as it is for all involved in law enforcement. Policemen deal regularly with the public and discipline brings forth good leadership and courage when dealing with issues affecting the community and nation.

The Royal Malaysian Police’s motto, “Tegas, Adil and Berhemah” (Firm, Just and Well-Mannered), stands proud and tall among the men and women in blue. It is meant to be a constant reminder about the importance of discipline within the force.

Because police officers are expected to be role models, any act of misbehaviour on their part is usually widely reported and publicly frowned upon. Police misconduct is generally intolerable and understandably so.

When policemen are supposed to be law enforcers, it is inconceivable for any of them to break the law. A tall order indeed but abide and live by the police motto at all times if you wish to be in service with the force.

Sadly, allegations and reports of police misdeeds are all too common these days. Most of us will surely find no joy in reading about them in the press.

Of late, the rape of a 16-year-old girl in the Miri central police station lock-up has hogged the media limelight for weeks. A total of 11 senior and lower-ranking police officers are facing disciplinary action in relation to the rape incident.

This past week, over in Kuala Lumpur, police personnel accused of harassing two women drivers stopped at separate movement control order (MCO) roadblocks were also being questioned by their superiors. The investigation also looked at the conduct and compliance procedures of police personnel while on duty.

Last Friday in Batu Pahat, Johor, four men believed to be robbery suspects were shot dead by the police. Following queries by an NGO on the matter, Johor police claimed the men in blue acted in “self-defense”. What else is new in such shootouts!

It is not uncommon too to hear of other serious crimes such as rape and deaths in police custody. Worst, the Special Branch was also accused by Suhakam of being responsible for the disappearance of four pastors, including Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat. The pastors are still missing.

As a Sarawakian, I am glad that such ‘serious’ cases allegedly committed by our men in blue are rare in my homeland.

Allegations of police corruption and excessive use of force have dogged the Malaysian police for decades. I do not expect this to end in an organisation of 130,000 men and women.

Neither do I think that the Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill 2019 or the watered-down Independent Police Conduct Commission (IPCC) Bill 2020 will be of much help to give the police image a lift.

Despite my pessimism, I also feel that it is only fair that we appreciate the good work of the majority in the police force. There are many decent and disciplined men and women who go about their daily work with diligence in helping to ensure peace and order.

We are forever indebted to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice while carrying out their duties and making sure that you and I are safe.

Like Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador once said, “There may be 500 corrupt and bad policemen but do not forget the other 129,500 good ones”.

Yes, let us appreciate the hard work of the diligent, selfless, good cops too.

In parting, let me salute those retired Sarawak police officers whom I’ve mentioned above: “You are all great guys, had been good cops and excelled as disciplined police officers.

“I am proud to have known you all and call you my friends.”

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.