200 years of policing - looking to the future

The PDRM (Polis DiRaja Malaysia) will celebrate on Sunday 200 years of policing, and we must acknowledge and thank their work in serving and protecting our communities.

The job of a police officer is definitely a challenging, thankless one. It is sad that the police do not get the trust and support that they need to be effective in preventing and solving crimes. The community at large should take this time to become aware of what the police do for us.

That said, this 200-year anniversary is also a great opportunity for the police and the community to reflect on what can be done to improve policing and public safety in this nation. By changing the focus towards community-based policing and prevention of crime rather than solving of crimes, much more work can be accomplished.

The present IGP (inspector general of police) has done a lot to motivate the police to become more effective and professional. The federal government is responding to the challenge and improving police infrastructure and equipment so police operations can be more effective.

Now is the time to review a few important points:

First, the lack of trust and confidence that the public has in the police force needs to be addressed. It is totally unfortunate that many simply do not respect police officers and dismiss them so easily. Accusations of corruption and laziness are serious ones, and not something to be thrown out as a joke.

Second, let us be frank. Who among us would wish to make policing a career? The job is hard and thankless, and the salary that police officers receive (RM600 a month to start with) is a true embarrassment to the police officers and the community.

Even if the police officers receive cost of living allowances and housing, there is no justification for such a poor salary. The police need to be treated with respect and the first thing that should be done is to raise their starting salary to a reasonable living wage. With a higher salary, there will be more demand for police jobs, allowing the police to select better, high-quality candidates. Respect for the force will increase as service quality increases.

The focus of policing in Malaysia has shifted to solving crimes rather than preventing them. It should be the other way around. Police officers who work within the community will be far more effective than those who just solve crimes. To accommodate the shift to community-based policing, more officers need to be on the street.

The police should create a civilian corp to handle office tasks, files and paperwork. Perhaps some unemployed university graduates can be retrained to do these jobs effectively so that the police officers can spend their time on the street.

Interaction is the best way to prevent crime in the community. The Subang Jaya district police officers are taking great strides in this area, and improvements have been seen.

We should realise that to maximise interaction (and therefore, crime prevention), the police should be walking, first and foremost. If they need to cover more areas, bicycles and motorcycles will be effective. Police patrol cars should be the last and least important of the tools used by the police to keep watch on crime in the community.

We are all looking towards the day when our police officers are hailed for being effective at crime prevention as well as solving crimes. Like many in the community, I hope that the police will move forward and that the next 200 years will be even better for all except real criminals.