‘Police can do more to improve image, regain public trust’

The image of the Royal Malaysia Police can be improved, if the force upholds transparency, continues to enhance public trust, and acts within the remit of the law, to ensure justice prevails.

Criminologist Datuk Dr P. Sundramoorthy said the 216-year-old institution has come under intense public scrutiny in recent years, largely due to cases of police misconduct.

“There is a lack of confidence and trust (in the force) right now,” said Sundramoorthy, who has conducted research on crime and policing, as part of his work in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

“Times have changed. With social media, you will get all sorts of information, including that of police wrongdoing, even if you do not read the news.”

He said there were many cases of alleged misconduct in recent times involving the men in blue that had affected the reputation of the force. They include:

Jan 5, 2023: A police inspector was charged with rape, and three counts of sexual assault involving a 16-year-old girl at his office in Yan, Kedah, on Dec 28, 2022.

March 17, 2023: Six policemen, including an inspector, were arrested after they allegedly extorted RM150,000 from a group of Chinese nationals, allegedly involved in a scam operation.

June 6, 2023: A police chief of a district in Pahang allegedly received bribes amounting to RM1 million from 2017 to 2022, to protect unlicensed entertainment outlets and massage parlours in the district.

July 20, 2021: Four police officers, including a police station chief and his subordinates, were caught hosting a wild party inside a police station in the Kajang district. The officers were nabbed with four female civilians, while singing, karaokeing, and consuming alcohol and ketum juice in a dark room lit with rotating lights, on the second floor of the police station.

The reputation of the force also took a beating after former Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador, revealed in March 2021, that senior and high-ranking officers within the police force were corrupt.

Sundramoorthy said the police must act fast to improve its image.

“The police must accept criticism constructively. They must ensure there is transparency and an open line of communication with the media and the public, without jeopardising ongoing investigations,” he said.

“In preparing official statements, the police must also ensure that the statements are consistent, factual, and address public concerns. Censorship will only create more negativity.”

He said the police must also be sensitive, and respect the public who come to them for help.

“Officers must also show empathy and genuine concern when victims lodge reports at police stations. They must also foster good relationships and seek collaborations with all quarters, including all journalists, and not with just the select few.”

Sundramoorthy added that when it came to investigations, police must also ensure that their cases were airtight, especially in high-profile cases, and cases of huge public interest.

“The onus is on the police to build a solid, ironclad case against the accused. While the burden to ensure a conviction rests on the prosecution, there have been many instances where those charged in court walked free due to errors in the investigation.

“This should not be ignored. It all boils down to having investigating officers with good investigative skills. While there are good lawyers out there, we’ve also read judgments where shoddy police work had led to the release of a perpetrator.”

With over 30 years of experience, Sundramoorthy, an honorary associate professor with USM’s Centre for Policy Research and International Studies, said the image of the police in the country began deteriorating between the late 90s and the early 2000s.

“Public records of police misconduct are aplenty. From police brutality to corruption, and to the ‘kau-tim’ practice.

“This perception must be addressed, and I believe the new leadership (led by Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Razarudin Husain and his deputy, Datuk Seri Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay) can do it.

“The public today are much more educated and well informed, unlike before. The onus is on the police to regain public trust,” he added.

Main image: Kuala Lumpur police