Indonesian police face loss of trust crisis

From exposé on social media, hashtag #SatuHariSatuOknum on Twitter, WhatsApp and others, there were negative stories about the police: brutality, violations of the law, criminal activities, corruption, drug abuse, sexual harassment, extortion and even murder.  It is no wonder then, the Indonesian public is losing trust in the police, whom is seen as too powerful and unaccountable.

Murder suspect faces death penalty. Photo credit: Indonesia Police

A recent prominent case was the murder of a police brigadier general by three other police generals, with one of them facing the death penalty and who was also suspected to be the head of a criminal group within the police force that protected online gambling syndicates.

Police fires tear gas at football fans. Photo credit: Ari Bowo Sucipto, Antara Photo

On October 1, when 3,000 football fans ran onto the pitch after the final whistle blew, police in riot gear chased them off the field, beat some with batons and fired round after round of tear gas into the stands to disperse the crowd. This triggered a stampede for the exit, which left at least 131 people dead, including 33 children. 

In the second week of October, three Medan police officers were arrested for attempted robbery. The list goes on. Anecdotal evidence suggested the public generally do not trust the police. 

Police officers. Photo credit: Indonesia Police

In interviews with Maritime Fairtrade, Iqbal, a student at a university in Surabaya, said the police issued him a ticket because his motorcycle mirror was too small, although the one he used was a standard size approved by the government. Fajar, who lives on the coast of Sidoarjo, reported the theft of his motorcycle to the police but because he did not have money to pay a bribe, his case was not investigated.

Anthony, owner of a car showroom in Surabaya, told Maritime Fairtrade his view of the police was represented by the research from Charta Politika, a leading survey agency in Indonesia, which showed a trend of decreasing public trust, from 73 percent in June to 55 percent in September.

Police General Listyo Sigit Prabowo, National Police Chief. Photo credit: Indonesia Police

Police General Listyo Sigit Prabowo, National Police Chief, said, in an official statement, reforms must be carried out immediately to regain public trust.

Reza Maulana, public policy researcher, added the police reforms must be carried out at all levels, from the most basic level to the top level.

National Police Chief (left) with President Widodo. Photo credit: Presidential Office

“Law enforcement carried out by the police must be done as objectively as possible. There should be no fear or favor and every case must be logged and investigated. Victims, regardless of whether poor or rich, must be accorded the same treatment. Police officers are not criminals and therefore, they should not act and behave as such,” said Reza.

Top photo credit: iStock/ Herwin Bahar

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