Jakarta – The late president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid once quipped that the only police figures he could trust for a non-compromised attitude were the fifth National Police chief Hoegeng Iman Santoso, police statues and polisi tidur (literally sleeping police in Indonesian, which refers to speed bumps). Gus Dur's criticism is no joke now that public confidence in the police institution may have reached its lowest ebb.
For over the past month and a half the public allegations of the police's rampant abuse of power have seemed to find confirmation as the probe into the killing of low-ranking officer Brig. Nofriansyah Yosua Hutabarat and the systematic efforts to cover it up developed. Not only have we heard with consternation the confession of two-star general Insp. Gen. Ferdy Sambo of ordering the murder, but also the fact that he led a powerful task force whose operations reportedly blurred the lines between law enforcement and criminal acts.
National Police chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo has dissolved the task force, after previously declaring Ferdy a murder suspect and dismissing him and many other officers. Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD called the task force "a super body".
But the problem is not solved yet. Rather, the investigation into the high-profile case has left so many questions unanswered, especially those concerning the ways the police have exercised their constitutional mandate to maintain law and order.
Reports of the special task force collecting money from drug and gambling rings they were supposed to crack down on have circulated. Dubbed Satgassus Merah Putih (red and white task force), the elite group of police reportedly with special skills, was founded in 2016 by then police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian to handle cases deemed as priority by the police leadership. From the beginning, Ferdy played a key role in the task force, which also included a number of officers who now are on the highest rungs of the police hierarchy.
Police spokesman, Insp. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo, said the special investigation into Yosua's murder had not found any connection between the task force and the alleged dirty operations. But Dedi did not rule out any possibility of the police delving into the alleged practices involving the now defunct task force, providing there was solid evidence.
The dissolution of the task force itself, however, has already shown something, if not many things, went wrong with the elite group. The public is eager to know what the task force had done during its six-year stunt. To show the police's commitment to transparency and accountability, Gen. Listyo should bring to light the circumstances behind his decision to disband the task force.
A credible investigation into the task force is imperative and should involve independent figures or institutions. We cannot agree more that other stakeholders in the security sector, including civil society organizations and public figures known for their integrity, should take part in the investigative work.
But beyond digging deep into the task force's operations, the investigation should first and foremost result in the recommendations the National Police need the most to reform themselves. The scandals that have plagued the police since the Reform era, including the Ferdy case, only send the message that the force has yet to fulfill the reform agenda.
Time for the police to prove Gus Dur's critique wrong.