Fachrizal Afandi, Malang, East Java – Two weeks after the Kanjuruhan football stadium stampede which killed more than 130 people, Indonesian President Joko Widodo summoned hundreds of regional police chiefs and high-ranking officers to the presidential palace. He warned them against repressive approaches and banned officers from exhibiting a lavish lifestyle.
Apart from their brutality, Indonesian police officers are notorious for having a lot of money to buy luxury goods.
The highest salary a police officer can earn is 5.9 million rupiah (US$383) per month. In addition they can earn up to an extra 34.9 million rupiah (US$2267) per month in bonuses. Although officers are prohibited from owning luxury items and there are punishments for those who violate these regulations, many high-ranking police and their families flaunt their luxury lifestyles without any sanction. In 2020, Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chairperson, Police Commissary General Firli Bahuri, was sanctioned for displaying a hedonistic lifestyle. He kept his job.
Jokowi's warning about police officers' luxurious lifestyles was nowhere near enough – it does not touch the root of the problem: inherent corruption within police nationwide.
On the same day as Jokowi's meeting with high-ranking police officers in the state palace, West Sumatra police chief, Inspector-General Teddy Minahasa Putra was arrested for selling 5kg of confiscated crystal methamphetamine. Teddy allegedly received 300 million rupiah (US$19,440) per kilogram from selling seized narcotics.
Then news broke about another corruption case involving police. Former Samarinda City Police intelligence unit officer, Ismail Bolong, testified about bribes and illegal mining activities in East Kalimantan. In a recording, Ismail admitted personally conveying bribes totalling 6 billion rupiah (US$388,819) to the Chief of Police Criminal Investigation Department Commissaries, General Agus Andrianto, in three instalments between September and November 2021. Although Ismail withdrew his statement and apologised to Agus a few days later, a former chief internal security bureau at national police internal affairs division, Brigadier-General Hendra Kurniawan, backed up Ismail's original statement and said Agus had received illicit money from illegal mining.
Although the reformasi regimes established the Corruption Eradication Commission in 2003 to prevent and prosecute corruption in law enforcement institutions, prosecuting high-ranking police officers isn't simple.
In 2012 the Commission did succeed in prosecuting Inspector General Djoko Susilo for graft and money laundering. But in 2015, it failed to prosecute Commissaries General Budi Gunawan who was a suspect in a graft case during his tenure as the head of the Career Development Bureau at the National Police headquarters from 2004 to 2006. The police retaliated by arresting Commission chairperson Abraham Samad and Commissioner Bambang Wijayanto.
These cases show how the government has failed to clean up police corruption. Leading expert on Indonesian police affairs Jacqui Baker says police reform is dead because political elites have no incentives to reform the institution.
After the Soeharto military regime fell in 1998, police seized illegal businesses from the army. Positions held by military officers are now filled by the police, such as several Director-Generals at the Ministry of Transportation and the Director-General of Corrections in the Ministry of Law and Human Rights. President Jokowi also appointed a former National Police Chairman as Minister of Interior. The current chairperson is also an active high-ranking police officer.
Apart from replacing the army's position in state civilian bureaucracy, the police also took over the army's role in securing a large amount of illicit money from businesses. A Charta Politika survey found corrupt practices in the police were perceived as the highest among public institutions.
The chances of eradicating corruption among police is slim without a push from civil society. The opportunity might come in 2024 in presidential and parliament elections. Voters should look to any political party which proposes a real program to reform the police.
Any program needs a transparent and accountable system for the police by adding stricter procedures to audit police properties annually and make them open to the public. The next president could also ensure the Corruption Eradication Commission readjusts its main mission to prosecuting corrupt police officers. These substantive actions are necessary to clean the dirty rub.
[The writer is a lecturer in the Faculty of Law, Brawijaya University, Malang Indonesia. He is chairperson of Brawijaya University Center for Criminal Justice Research (PERSADA UB). Originally published under Creative Commons by 360info.]