POLICING is not an easy job. It comes with the threat of death. If Wikipedia’s numbers have any authority, that threat does happen more than occasionally. The open source database says since 1910, some 1,346 police officers have died in the line of duty.
Most of them were police constables. Even the third inspector-general of police, Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Hashim, wasn’t spared. He was gunned down on June 7, 1974. The death toll includes off-duty police officers responding to incidents as required by the Police Force Act 1967.
The sacrifices of the force and the families are profound, as former United States president Barack Obama said to his men in blue. The same applies to our men.
Policing in the 21st century is dangerous and difficult. Communist insurgency of old is now replaced by terrorism. Violent crimes, too, are on the uptick. Crimes are also crossing borders and boundaries. Criminals sitting in Macau do menacing things in Malaysia. Technology the friend has become the enemy.
Our Royal Malaysia Police (RMP), who numbered 153,122 in 2015, are countering this with baton, bullets and a little more. But funding may be an issue, says Aira Azhari, senior executive, democracy and governance, of Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS). Lack of money may make policing here to be stuck in the 20th century a little longer, it appears.
But Aira sees a way out of the conundrum. And that is to decentralise the force. The United Kingdom, from whom we have borrowed the Anglo-Saxon idea of policing but not the system, has a decentralised force.
Nicholas Chan of IDEAS hints in a paper titled “Strengthening the Royal Malaysia Police by Enhancing Accountability” that a decentralised RMP will work as well here. The 153,122-strong force distributed over 13 states and three federal territories will be easier to fund, goes Aira’s argument. Accountability may improve too.
The constraint of the federal coffers is also reflected in the low salary paid to police constables. A monthly remuneration of between RM1,014 and RM3,517 for an eight-hour shift and more must mean scraping the bottom of the barrel for a city-dwelling constable.
This is both a refrain and a lament whispered at some indiscreet moments on and off the Malaysian streets. More government funds need to head the way of these men and women in blue to avoid making this grumble turn into a rumble.
But despite working more on less, our men and women in blue are taking a hit on the perception score because of some bad apples wearing the badge. Transparency International-Malaysia’s findings of the 2017 Global Corruption Barometer for the Asia-Pacific Region, which surveyed the public’s perception of corruption and the government’s effectiveness in tackling corruption, hit where it hurts most.
About 57 per cent of those surveyed saw RMP to be the most corrupt of our public institutions. We can’t blame the noble ones in blue for being let down by the deplorable few. As American magnate Warren Buffet famously said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”