Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan's recent announcement that the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP) has to undergo a re-branding "to regain public confidence in its credibility" betrayed a shocking lack of understanding and comprehension about what his job is and what is asked of him in our troubled times.
"I have to make changes for the better for the rebranding of the force," he helpfully explained to us on some government-controlled television station. He is reported to have said this in conjunction with the bicentennial Police Day on March 25. To kick off this whole public relations exercise, he has lamely proclaimed that "the first step in the rebranding exercise would be to introduce the new vision and mission of the force in conformity with the theme of Police Day activities, 'Royal Malaysia Police Towards Global Distinction'."
What other vision and mission of the RMP can there be other than this: "We are incorruptible. You can never compromise us. We will leave no crime uncaught (not punished for that is first for the judge to decide and then for them to punish). No criminals will ever escape our reach. We are constantly improving ourselves and our crime detecting and arresting techniques. We will not give into violence and disrespect a suspect's rights because we have caught him. We will be fair. We will use all the resources at our disposal to catch these offenders. You will never escape us. It will only be a matter of time before we catch you. We are the bailiffs of justice."
The task required of the RMP is simple and straightforward. There can be nothing new about the job of policing as far as its core principles are concerned. We know what it is. The police should know what it is. You protect us. We help you protect us. It's that simple. The police's motto should be simple - 'To protect and apprehend according to the law.'
This is what the IGP's new vision and mission, amongst others, entails - "enhancing the level of training of newly recruited police officers and men", "upgrade the efficiency of investigation by the police and its forensics unit in view of the transnational nature of crime involving international syndicates", "improve the service scheme of the force in a move to attract more people into building themselves a career in the field of policing" and "the police had also taken the initiative to bolster the scientific methods of retrieving criminal evidence to ensure that detained suspects did not escape prosecution."
I say forget all this new fangled mumbo-jumbo talk. These things he hails as his new vision should be standard operating procedure. All he is required to do is do his job properly and ensure the other police officers do theirs too. We don't need this pathetic and embarrassing song and dance especially coming from the highest-ranking police officer in Malaysia.
And the question for me is not what he is going to do. That's easy to say. Talk is cheap. And does every little policy change (or what amounts to it) or change of leadership now also need these cheap superficial publicity stunts to show how serious this new leader is about his job?
And he had the cheek to say all this while at the same time noting "that international syndicates used the country as a transit point for activities such as prostitution, drug trafficking and firearms smuggling, and movement of criminals." Crime flourishes when suitable conditions enable it to do so. It is like fungus. If it isn't damp, it won't grow. And Malaysia is plenty damp. That we were recently celebrating China and Russia taking over us as the highest production of pirated DVDs does not in the wider sense of things bode well for us.
That the newspapers print daily reports of rape, incest, murder, dead bodies turning up mysteriously in both discreet and public places, blatant lies, and the utter drivel of our politicians does not speak well for us. That the RMP has trouble recruiting non-Malays into the force hint at the blatant racism and discrimination that goes on behind close doors, polite smiles behind the blue starched uniform and polished shoes and token positions. That there are frequent reports of deaths in police custody is like wet warm blood streaked on their uniform.
And what does his wonderful vision consist of?
"The force had taken the proactive measure of seeking the people's cooperation in feeding it information on such activities through the Rakan Cop programme that has been expanded to cover the whole country last year." As usual, it consists of now not only the public having to bail all these political masters and their cronies out, we have to help the police do their jobs even as they make no attempt to champion for any kind of Whistleblowers Act. And how are we even to take any of them seriously if they aren't willing to be honest and transparent about their disciplinary problems and do something meaningful about it?
They have been resisting the IPCMC (Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission) like a sick man resisting his medicine because he cannot take the taste. In fact, how are we to take any of them seriously when our very own Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) has been recently rocked by former ACA Sabah chief Mohamad Ramli Abdul Manan's revelations? The Malays are no stranger to this and even have a saying for it: "harapkan pagar, pagar makan padi" (meaning "you depend on the fence, but the fence eats the rice").
What the IGP should understand is that the police are not like some corporate company that thrives on keeping itself in the public eye. All the police are supposed to do are their jobs. That is all that is required of them, no more and no less. That they are indulging in this pathetic public relations exercise clearly indicates that they are not serious about their jobs. For them, dealing with what the public thinks is more important than apprehending criminals.
All those resources geared towards public relations could have gone towards apprehending more criminals, investigating deeper, refining their skills, sending officers to the latest cutting edge forensic courses. That we read less about crime in the newspapers (not because it is suppressed), the more that we are able to walk on the streets in the wee hours of the morning and feel safe, the more that we are able to leave our homes unlocked, the more that we see policemen doing their jobs, that would be advertisement enough that the police are great and doing their job.
The IGP has to understand that we know when things are bad and no amount of public relations exercise is going to make us feel better or think otherwise. In case he didn't know, we certainly are not stupid. And things are bad, if not ripping at the seams.
The sad part is that the IGP lost the initiative on this bicentennial occasion to reaffirm his commitment to the integrity, efficiency and honesty being the hallmark of a true RMP. That he has chosen to replace it with his limited, stunted, dark vision paralyses me into a state of grave despondency. (All statements in quotations were taken from Bernama's news report).