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The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

– Robert Peel, former UK prime minister

A ‘cartel’ in the police force! This is indeed news to many of us.

It has from time to time been rumoured that there were links to syndicates. The general public has always speculated about this.

However, a ‘cartel’? It basically means a syndicate within the police force — and this is a first! This was revealed by no one, but Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador.

In a March 17, 2021 newspaper report, he revealed that a group of young police officers had formed a cartel to dominate the force and topple him.

If indeed a cartel does exist within our police force, it is a matter of utmost and serious concern.

The expectation by the public is that the police exist to ensure the former’s protection and personal safety and possessions as well to prevent crime and maintain civil order.

The revelation by the IGP has led to a renewal of calls for the setting up of an independent watchdog body to oversee the police.

Many attempts and proposals have been made over the years to curb abuses of power in the police force.

According to various newspaper reports, each attempt has met strong resistance from elements within the police force and derailed.

Many civil societies and individuals have been campaigning tirelessly over the years to get politicians and parliament to approve the creation of a strong and effective oversight authority.

Claims of police corruption, abuse of power, excessive use of force and various other allegations have been made against the Malaysian police for decades.

This eventually led to the formation of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysian Force (RCI) in 2004.

The RCI’s terms of reference authorised it “to study and recommend measures to improve police efficiency, to make the force more effective in modern law enforcement and to turn the force into a respected and formidable enforcement body”.

In 2005, among the 125 recommendations made by the RCI was the recommendation for the setting up of an independent body that would be authorised to investigate complaints of misconduct against the police and allow it to take disciplinary action.

This meant the setting up of an agency that could “police the police” and in this case the creation of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).         

This would mean the proposed IPCMC would be able to receive complaints against the police officers, investigate them, then try and punish them if the complaint was found to be true.

This mechanism, it is argued, is necessary as internal investigations within an organisation tend not to deliver justice.

However, instead of the IPCMC, the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) was created in 2009.

The EAIC is seen to be a poor cousin of the proposed IPCMC as it could only make recommendations and cannot provide adequate oversight and ensure police accountability.

It is alleged that this toothless body was a compromise due to pressure from the police.

It is now 16 years since the Royal Commission made its recommendation for the IPCMC.

Since then, several half-hearted attempts were made in parliament to introduce a Bill to this effect, albeit watered down as well. So far nothing has materialised.

In the meantime, a few days ago the IGP announced that the police are hunting for a 33-year-old ‘Datuk Seri’ under the Anti-Money Laundering Act (Amla) and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).

It was reported that some police officers were also allegedly involved and thereby giving credence to the need for an independent body.

Let us hope Abdul Hamid’s successor carries on his commitment to clean up the force when his contract ends this May 3.

It seems that all the civil society groups and individuals that have been clamouring for an independent body to police the police still have a long journey ahead of them.

The politicians are otherwise distracted and seem more interested in securing power rather than the real concerns of the public.

In the meantime, enhanced public confidence in the police can only come from within the police force.

At this point, it is important to note that there are many policemen with integrity and the setting up of an independent oversight authority will enable them to work more effectively within a refreshed police force.

However, ultimately we need adequate safeguards against ‘cartels’ and we need them soon.

Practising the concept of ‘Rule of Law’ and having an independent watchdog will give confidence to the rakyat that their country is being governed and policed effectively.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.