An indispensable part of police reform

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The government appears to be dragging its feet over the key recommendation of the Royal Commission looking into the operations of the police. The IPCMC Coalition explains why we urgently need an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission.

Background

The Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police (Police Commission) was set up by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on 4 February 2004. The establishment of the Police Commission was seen as Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s positive response to public concerns over reports of human rights violations, abuse of power, corruption and ineffective or unresponsive work practices that have affected the image of PDRM. In announcing the formation of the Police Commission, the Prime Minister said:

“ … the Royal Malaysia Police, as a team that engages with the public,  has to be knowledgeable about human rights in the discharge of duties and in dealing with the public. Issues such as police violence, unsatisfactory service, corruption and other negative issues must be eradicated.”

After a thorough and intensive study lasting over 15 months, the Police Commission made 125 recommendations dealing with issues ranging from the conduct of police to their welfare and terms of service as well as on human rights, crime and corruption.

One of these recommendations is the formation of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

This write-up aims to explain the concept of the IPCMC, and why the setting up of the IPCMC is an essential part of the much-needed police reforms this country needs.

1.    At present, what happens when there is an allegation of police misconduct?

•    At present, when a police officer abuses his authority, the only recourse that a person has is to make a police report or to lodge a complaint with the Police Disciplinary Board (Bahagian Tatatertib). In both scenarios, the police are relied upon to investigate themselves!
•    In many instances, no one gets back to the complainant, there is little follow up, and the public is made to believe that no action is taken.
•    The present situation is highly unsatisfactory.

2.    What is IPCMC?

•    The IPCMC is an independent, external oversight body, whose principal function is to receive and investigate complaints about the PDRM and its personnel.
•    The IPCMC will drastically change the present situation. It will make PDRM much more accountable and will help restore and sustain public confidence in PDRM. 

3.    Who will sit on the IPCMC?

•    The IPCMC will be made up of seven Commissioners appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, on the advice of the Prime Minister, for a three-year term.
•    The IPCMC is expected to (generally) conduct public hearings. It will be accountable to Parliament.

4.    What kind of issues can the IPCMC address?

•    The IPCMC will be empowered to investigate police corruption, the commission of criminal offences by the police, and other misconduct.   
•    The IPCMC can investigate the actions of a police officer even if he or she is not on duty or outside the country.

5.    When will the IPCMC begin an investigation, and will the investigation be affected by proceedings in court?

•    The IPCMC can commence an investigation based on a complaint or on its own initiative
•    Unlike Suhakam, the IPCMC can commence or continue an investigation even if there is a proceeding going on in court

6.    What kind of action can the IPCMC take?

•    The IPCMC can recommend that a police officer found guilty of misconduct be reprimanded, deprived of one or more good conduct badges, demoted, fined, denied an increment, transferred or dismissed.
•    The IPCMC may also refer its findings to its Chief Legal Counsel to take legal proceedings in court against the errant police officer.

7.    Will the IPCMC have power to ensure police cooperation in its investigations?

•    The IPCMC will have broad powers to obtain documents, issue search warrants, and summon witnesses.
•    Any person who fails to attend when summoned or gives evidence which is false or willfully destroys evidence or threatens a witness or prevents a witness from attending an inquiry commits an offence and can, upon conviction, be fined up to RM10,000 and/or imprisoned for up to two years.

8.    Will the IPCMC weaken the police force?

•    No. On the contrary, it will strengthen the force. Having an independent and external mechanism that allows greater scrutiny of police conduct can only result in members of the PDRM developing better standards of conduct and a greater regard for the rights of persons under their control
•    The IPCMC will not weaken the PDRM but would make the police force more responsible, professional, and accountable to the public for their actions and will ensure that police personnel abide by the law

9.    We already have the PDRM’s Disciplinary Board, the ACA, the Public Complaints Bureau and Suhakam. Do we need another body to monitor the police?

•    The Disciplinary Board of the PDRM does investigate and discipline members of the force. But it remains an internal mechanism, whose functioning is not transparent or open to public scrutiny. This internal mechanism has failed to meet public expectations over the years. Self-policing has proved ineffective all over the world, and Malaysia is no exception.
•    The role of the ACA is restricted to instances involving corruption while the Public Complaints Bureau only deals with bureaucratic matters. There is a large area of misconduct that falls outside the ambit of these bodies.
•    Suhakam is not given any enforcement capability. It can only make recommendations. Moreover, most of its recommendations have not been adopted.
•    None of these mechanisms comes anywhere near to having the power and jurisdiction of the IPCMC. Reforms cannot be achieved by insisting on the old ways that have obviously failed to prevent the problems that we are currently facing.

10.    Will the formation of the IPCMC mean that we have no appreciation for the valuable services performed by the Police?

•    Far from it. We appreciate the important role played by the police in society. If such appreciation has waned over the years, it is precisely because of incidents of police misconduct that went unchecked in the past. Having the IPCMC will result in a more transparent and much better police force, which will in turn receive much greater appreciation from the public than at present.

11.    What about having an Ombudsman to deal with not just the police but all other government agencies as well?

•    The idea of eventually having an ombudsman (or several different ombudsmen) to address and investigate complaints against all enforcement agencies and other government departments is most welcome. However, bringing forth an idea worth considering (and which requires time for consideration) does not and must not become an excuse to abandon or delay another excellent proposal that has already been carefully studied and crafted. Details of the IPCMC have already been thought-out and proposed in a draft Bill prepared by the Police Commission and submitted many months ago. The draft Bill only needs a little fine-tuning, which can be quickly done and implemented

12.     What can I do as a citizen?

•    Show your support for the IPCMC, by signing the petition prepared by the Bar Council. You may obtain copies of the petition from the Secretariat (see details below, and contact Rajen or Mohd. Rezib). You can help collect signatures in support of the IPCMC from your family members, friends and organisations
•    Obtain copies of this pamphlet from the Secretariat, and help disseminate information about the IPCMC
•    Speak or write to your members of parliament to ask them to support the IPCMC. Take part in forums and discussions on the IPCMC
•    As a citizen, your voice counts. Make your voice heard so that a mechanism that is essential to police reform will be put in place.

The above is from a pamphlet prepared by the IPCMC Coalition and  Printed and published by the Bar Council Malaysia. 

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