Jakarta – The life sentence recently handed down to a two-star police general for drug trafficking less than three months after another inspector general received the death penalty for premeditated murder can be viewed from two different angles.
On the gloomy side, the two events have dealt a major and lasting blow to the National Police's reputation. Even one bad cop is too many, as the institution must uphold law and order in its own ranks if it seeks to legitimately impose it on the rest of us. As the Indonesian saying goes, "A dirty broom cannot sweep clean."
On the bright side, however, the prosecution of the two high-ranking officers, who some had claimed were rising stars and potential candidates for the police's top post in the future, has sent a clear message on upholding justice without bias or favor. The energy and rigor with which the National Police built the cases against Insp. Gen. Teddy Minahasa and Insp. Gen. Ferdy Sambo set a new benchmark for investigations into violations involving high-ranking officers.
Last week, the West Jakarta District Court sentenced Teddy to life in prison after finding him guilty of orchestrating a plot to steal and sell 5 kilograms of methamphetamine seized by the West Sumatra Police. At the time of the crime last year, Teddy was the chief of the provincial police force and was about to be installed as East Java Police chief.
The sentence diverged from the demands of state prosecutors, who said Teddy deserved capital punishment.
In February, Ferdy was convicted of plotting the murder of his own aide-de-camp, a low-ranking police officer, and tampering with evidence to cover up the crime. He will face a firing squad if he exhausts all legal means to evade execution. The Jakarta High Court upheld Ferdy's death sentence last month, a punishment that the new Criminal Code has kept despite opposition from human rights groups.
Under the code, however, Ferdy's death penalty can be commuted to a life sentence if he displays good behavior for 10 years.
The National Police have dishonorably discharged both Ferdy and Teddy, but to further show commitment to justice, the institution should express its acceptance of the punishments for the two.
Beyond that, for the sake of equality before the law, the police must take no measures that could be interpreted as efforts to protect the two former generals. Teddy and Ferdy are now in police custody at "special detention facilities" inside the Mobile Brigade Corps headquarters in Kelapa Dua, Depok, West Java. Other police generals convicted of crimes in the past also served their jail sentences in the exclusive detention center, unlike other criminals who serve their sentences in overcrowded prisons.
Teddy's conviction has given the police the impetus to carry on their internal reforms, launched in the wake of the regime change in 1998 to transform the police into a more accountable and credible institution.
There is no doubt that National Police chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo faces a tough task in cleaning up the institution – beyond merely paying lip service to the cause – particularly as there is always potential for opposition from rogue elements within the force, amid allegations of conflict between competing factions.
The scale of the job is demonstrated by the great number of irregularities involving the police that have suddenly, magically disappeared, such as allegations of suspiciously "fat" bank accounts belonging to some police generals, which first surfaced in 2010 in response findings by the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK).
Some recent opinion polls have found that the police have regained some measure of public trust. This should encourage Listyo to do more to rebuild the institution. We are waiting eagerly for the police to become the fair, reputable institution that our nation deserves.