Police nightclub drug raids a waste of resources

Deepak Gill

Modified 29 Jan 2008, 10:21 am

I need to bring up something that has been bothering many young Malaysians for a long time. The police, in a somewhat futile effort to show that they're doing their job, have for years been constantly raiding nightspots to find a small number of drug users.

Imagine going out on a Friday night to hang out with friends, have some drinks and a dance. The police raiding party, which would suddenly appear in force, will rudely make you stop what you're doing.

The music would be stopped and all lights would come on. And then your ICs are taken away and you're herded like sheep into the toilets and forced to pee into a test tube so they can tell whether or not you use drugs. For the next frustrating few hours, you're penned in and can't leave until the police finish what they're there for. Those that are tested positive for any illegal drugs are hauled away in trucks (although sometimes all are taken away for tests at the station).

And don't expect the police to be remotely polite to anyone, irrespective of innocence. You're made to feel like a criminal just for being there. This might be the easy way out for the police to fill their 'raid quotas' but it's a waste of taxpayers money and police resources. In most cases, only a tiny percentage of those tested are drug users.

The Star reported some time back that an astounding 1,000 people were rounded up from Penang's Gurney Drive's nightspots and shipped in trucks to the station for urine tests. This logistical nightmare lasted for four whole hours and surprise, 990 tested negative. Basically, only 1% tested positive. An innocent victim almost missed her own wedding because of that raid, not to mention the mental and physical torture on hundreds of others. Suhakam should really look into this matter.

It's actually happening all the time. Statistics from newspaper articles on raids on licenced nightclubs show that over 90 percent of their patrons are innocent. Sometimes the number tested positive are less than the size of the raiding team. What kind of policing is this? It took four hours, 30 officers and1,000 members of the public for the police to find 10 users?

Which give rise to an important question - do the police have the right to arrest you in a public area, even if you're innocent, just so they can test your urine? And why raid nightspots? The police would get the same or a better hit rate if they arrested patrons at mamak restaurants or stopped a public bus. It's just as random.

It's silly to attack licenced nightspots and victimise legitimate businesses and customers. Even innocent patrons stop going as they're intimidated by the raids and the subsequent inconvenience. Many feel offended that the police assume everyone there is on drugs.

I have experienced a raid and know many victims of raids. The way the police behave frightens them into submission, and any rights are either forgotten or ignored, allowing the abuse of power. Everyone is presumed guilty until proven otherwise. Is there so little respect for the youth of this nation?

Here's a tip to the police narcotics unit - there should be a higher number of dealers arrested instead of users. Otherwise, the raids can go on until eternity with no benefit to the country. The IGP should put an end to this ineffective practice immediately.

Over the years, many birthday parties, farewells, reunions or just simple social outings have been rudely hijacked by these silly operations. It's not only irritating but extremely disrespectful of the public's right to relax at a place of our choice after a long week.

To the police - search for your young drug users (or better still drug dealers) with the right investigative methods, at the appropriate places.