Jakarta – When the National Police gave their first account of what had transpired at the residence of then-internal affairs chief Insp. Gen. Ferdy Sambo, it was clear something was off.
The initial account goes like this: a fatal shootout took place at Ferdy's house, involving two of his bodyguards after one of them, identified as Brig. Nofriansyah Yosua Hutabarat, attempted to sexually assault his wife in her bedroom. Yosua ended up dead after being shot five times, while his killer, identified as Second Agent Richard Eliezer, was unscathed. Richard, who confronted Yosua after hearing the screams of Ferdy's wife, was acting in "self-defense".
That narrative has now been totally debunked – it was all, to put it simply, a lie.
Yosua's family was the first to cast doubt on the "shootout" account, claiming they found bruises and cuts on Yosua's body that indicated he was tortured. Police watchdogs also found it strange that Yosua, a trained sniper, failed to hit Richard, who only recently got his gun.
When confronted with such questions, the police were largely evasive, telling reporters that the investigation was still ongoing. Public suspicions, however, only grew when the police claimed that not a single CCTV camera at Ferdy's house was functional during the incident.
By this point, the police knew they could no longer stand by their initial account. They slapped Richard and another of Ferdy's bodyguards, identified as Brig. Ricky Rizal, with murder and premeditated murder charges, respectively. On Tuesday, as public pressure mounted for transparency in the case, they charged Ferdy Sambo with ordering Richard to kill Yosua, confirming the long-held suspicions that he was murdered rather than killed in a shootout.
While the crime is horrific and those involved should be prosecuted to give closure to the victim's family, we cannot afford to ignore the gravity of the cover-up attempts allegedly made by Ferdy and other police officials handling the case. The police can no longer blame the "bad apples" – or in their own lingo "oknum" – for a scandal of this magnitude.
Police chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo has said that 25 officers, including Ferdy and two other police generals, are currently being investigated for potential ethics breaches over their processing of the crime scene of Yosua's murder. There are strong indications that they tampered with the evidence in an attempt to cover up Ferdy's alleged crime.
This is the right thing to do, but Listyo should do more than just remove the "bad apples". The alleged cover-up is just the tip of the iceberg of the endemic corruption within the police force, a symptom of the systemic failure that allows the "bad apples" to thrive in the first place.
It will not be easy for the police to recover from this fiasco, or for the public to restore their faith in the institution. But it is not too late for them to regain public trust. Listyo can do this by coming clean about the alleged attempt by his own men to cover up Yosua's murder.
The police should no longer cover up lies with more lies.