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We need police reform

Tempo - December 26, 2019

Jakarta – As an important element in our democratic state, the Indonesian Police is taking too long in putting their house in order. Now that reform has run for over two decades, members of the police have not shown themselves turning more professional. The police continue to use violence to enforce the law and uphold public order.

Police action bordering on the militaristic was very apparent when police got involved in the removal of people's houses in Tamansari, Bandung City, December 12. Instead of using negotiation tactics to disperse the crowds, members of the police, whose slogan is to protect, nurture and serve the public, use violence. Equipped with helmets, shields, and bore cudgels, the police officers let loose teargas, then detained and beat up members of the community who refused to be moved.

This is not the first time the police have used brutality while enacting their duties. Mid this year, the police came under public scrutiny for overacting when they detained individuals accused of breaking the law after the May 22 demonstrations. Police also resorted to violence when they dispersed picketing students in September. Five people died and scores were hurt in the incident. The police often announce that some of the victims who died are trouble-mongers without ever describing clearly how they died.

This repulsive face of the police was described by their acts of violence compiled by the Commission for Missing People and Victims of Acts of Violence (Kontras) from June 2018 to May 2019. According to the commission, a total of 643 acts of violence were enacted in the period. The acts of violence among others came in the form of arbitrary detention causing the victims bodily harm or death.

Kontras also recorded 72 cases of torture or inhuman acts of brutality in the same period, resulting in 16 dead and 114 hurt. Of the total number of cases, 57 were conducted by the police, 7 by the military, and 8 by wardens. The main motive for the police violence was to extract confessions or pieces of evidence from perpetrators.

This conduct unbecoming by the police is a blatant veer away from the spirit of reform. The police supposed to start putting their house in order when they were separated from the Indonesian Military in accordance with Decision Number VI of 2000 by the People's Consultative Assembly. The police were separated from all things military in the aim for them to become professional when carrying out their duties upholding law and order. It was expected that the police also uphold human rights in their activities.

A string of instruments was put in place, from the police code of ethics to implementation guidelines for upholding human rights, while enacting police duties. Apparently putting them in action has not been smooth sailing. It is also apparent that there has been no tight monitoring of police action. Nor has there been heavy sanctioning against police enacting violence against the ordinary citizenry.

President Joko Widodo should be concerned about police reform when it looks like it has been stalled. Jokowi cannot have a hands-off approach in the matter because the police are under the authority of the President. Police reform needs to continue to ensure the institution is capable of supporting democracy and the legal system. Without a professional police force, it would be difficult to create a just and democratic state.

Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine: https://magz.tempo.co/read/36228/we-need-police-reform

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1288108/we-need-police-reform