While the government's decision to allocate greater human and logistical resources might seem like an effective strategy towards tackling crime in Malaysia, it is my opinion that what really is required is a community policing approach in battling crime.
Community policing, which is a strategy that is being adopted globally, is a new way of policing in which the needs and expectations of individuals and local communities are always reflected in police decision-making and service. It is widely acknowledged in studies that the police cannot be effective unless they have the consent of the people being policed
By embracing strategies that personalise police service, police departments that have adopted the community policing philosophy have been able to engage communities in comprehensive and collaborative way for community-based problem-solving involving crime.
Many efforts involve assigning individual officers or teams to specific beat areas to foster a sense of ownership and responsibility. The marriage of police and community brings together the power of the formal criminal justice system with the informal social control that communities can exert.
Police departments can also be a catalyst in forging new partnerships with other professional and civic institutions such as the municipal councils, NGOs, the business community and schools.
These new professional and community relationships allow for the development of long-term, broad-based interventions that address the conditions that allow chronic crime problems to persist. By promoting a focus on positive interaction with youth - particularly in crime-riddled, hotspot neighbourhoods - community policing offers the hope of helping more young people to grow up to become productive, law-abiding citizens.
However, community policing can only be effective when society believes that policing is impartial and carried out on behalf of all of the community rather that favouring certain groups within it. Further, a police service will be most effective when it maintains the confidence, trust and respect of the public.
One key element of effective and professional community policing is accountability both legal and democratic. Legal accountability requires a transparent legal framework for policing, consistent with international human rights standards. It makes clear what actions (or omissions) of police action are considered abuses, and those which hold individual officers accountable for those actions or omissions.
There must exist an internal police accountability mechanism that fairly and impartially addresses breaches of police procedures, imposes disciplinary measures or initiates criminal proceedings and thereby inculcates a culture of professionalism, ethical conduct and respect for human rights throughout the police service.
At the same time an external police oversight mechanism like the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) must be set up to effectively and independently investigate complaints of abuses lodged against police officers and, if necessary, recommend prosecution and remedial action.
At the same time, democratic accountability is also required and not just to the traditional, elected representatives in the legislature. There is a need at times for direct civil society participation in police commissions which oversee the setting of key strategic objectives for the service, the appointment of police senior leadership and the monitoring of overall police performance and of public responses to it.
Unless these accountability systems are in place, the police risk serious deterioration in their relations with local neighbourhoods. These risks will deprive the police of community support and assistance which are an essential context for preventing and combating crime.
The writer is executive director, Amnesty International Malaysia.