Yuliasri Perdani, Jakarta – The brawl between Riau Islands Police officers and soldiers from the Army's Infantry Battalion 134 Tuah Sakti in Batam on Sunday has exposed disciplinary problems among members of the two security institutions, especially regarding the use of firearms.
The brawl started when the soldiers approached the Riau Islands Police's Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarters to clarify why police officers had raided a suspected illegal fuel-storage facility located at a housing complex in Batam.
It was reported that the soldiers were offended by a warning shot fired by a police officer during the raid. The quarrel turned nasty when police officers fired their weapons at the apparently unarmed soldiers. Four soldiers sustained bullet wounds to the leg and two nearby food stalls were destroyed in the incident.
University of Indonesia criminologist Bambang Widodo Umar suggested lax discipline and a lack of external oversight had allowed members of the two institutions to behave recklessly.
"Clashes between police officers and soldiers, particularly within the rank-and-file, have been numerous. The two sides usually handle this problem by giving directives or holding joint training sessions, but they don't address the core problems, which are an excessive esprit de corps, a disproportionate use of force and the arrogance of personnel on both sides," he said on Monday.
According to Bambang, lax discipline had also allowed such personnel to engage in illicit businesses. "The police and Army leaders have failed to take action against officers, who are involved in gambling, fuel smuggling and other illegal businesses. At some point, these corrupt police officers and soldiers clash over racketeering from these illcit businesses," he said.
Bambang, a former police officer, said he was concerned that the National Police would not take stern disciplinary action against the trigger-happy officers involved in the Batam clash.
"Gun violence committed by officers will only be handled internally. The officers will be issued with lenient sanctions. The force never brings them to a civilian court," he said.
A report by the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) found that between 2011 and 2013, police officers were involved in 278 shooting incidents that killed 132 people and injured 428 others. Only a handful of perpetrators have been brought to justice.
Meanwhile, Al Araf of the human rights watchdog Imparsial underlined the need for an independent investigation to establish the real culprits in the incident.
"If it's true that [the raid] was part of the police's efforts to crack down on one type of criminal activity, they retain authority to act against anyone who is implicated in crime. However, the police must act proportionately. There must be an objective investigation in the case and all parties need to restrain themselves," he said on Monday.
In the wake of the incident, the National Police and the Army have dispatched their internal investigation teams to Batam.
"The National Police will take stern action against misconduct committed by our officers, including possible gun violence," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar told a press conference in Jakarta on Monday.