Fourteen years after being separated from the Indonesian Military (TNI), the National Police remains one of the few state institutions untouched by reform.
Integrity and transparency have increasingly become rare ideals within the police force after policy makers expanded its law enforcement mandate — a decision that aimed to end 35 years of military domination of security affairs.
National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo has regularly boasted of the progress in police reform and integrity since 2000, but without detailing any benchmark or outcome of the process.
The classic tales of extortion and kickbacks in dealing with the police have not even slightly abated.
Stories of a pervasive culture of kickbacks emanate from the earliest stages of recruitment and permeate the entire process until an officer receives his or her posting.
The force is literally a haven for practicing corruption.
The police’s permissive culture and the lack of external independent oversight have been blamed for the pervasive corrupt practices.
Analysts have called for the amendment of Law No. 2/2002 on the National Police by inserting articles to establish an independent and rigorous supervisory institution with the authority to discharge or demote errant police officers.
The absence of such external supervision along with the police’s overwhelming authority is the root of all evil plaguing the force.
Unlike in developed democracies, violations committed by police officers here are dealt with internally without any independent institution able to verify the process or to conduct an independent investigation.
Due to a strong esprit de corps, the police regularly protect their own, particularly the top brass, even regarding gross violations.
“The police’s internal supervision division remains lenient with bad cops,” said Indonesia Police Watch (IPW) chairman Neta S. Pane recently.
“This permissive culture still exists because of the degree of solidarity within the force. Some bad cops are protected by their superiors or they bribe their fellow officers to get away with their crimes,” he said.
The National Police is overseen by the National Police Commission (Kompolnas).
However, Kompolnas are legislatively restricted by the police law to merely serve an advisory role. Without the slightest authority to summon a recalcitrant police officer, Kompolnas is in effect a toothless institution.
Kompolnas’ independence has also been undermined by the recent selection of its new members, many of whom have personal ties with police generals.
“The House of Representatives should draft a law that gives teeth to Kompolnas,” police analyst and retired police officer Sr. Comr. Alfons Lema said.
Currently, several Kompolnas members are in talks with lawmakers and relevant government officials to revise the law and provide more firepower for the watchdog.
They demand a revision of Presidential Regulation No. 17/2011 or a promulgation of the Kompolnas Law to allow them to carry out independent investigations.
“Kompolnas should be placed above the National Police. Give Kompolnas more authority to enable it to respond to complaints filed by the public,” Al Araf from rights group Imparsial said.
However, as many senior legislators have allegedly conspired with recalcitrant military generals to keep their dirty laundry hidden from public view in exchange for maintaining the current corrupt establishment, there is little hope that they will initiate any reform within the police force.
Aside from problems in oversight, the police’s permissive culture in education and training have also undermined reform.
During Soeharto’s New Order regime, low-ranking officers, for example, were required to undergo at least 11 months of training, but since the dawn of the reform era in 1998, the system has been unclear.
New recruits are only required to join a three-month training before deployment.
“The training, education and promotion systems are a mess. The police say they do not have the money to finance long periods of education and training, but they spend a fortune on graft-riddled projects,” Neta said.
Neta also criticized the police for allocating most of their budget on lavish facilities and infrastructure rather than investing in police education.
Earlier this year, the police allocated Rp 1.36 trillion (US$140 million) to purchase a number of vehicles, laptops, dogs and horses.
National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Suhardi Alius claimed that the police needed state-of-the-art facilities to solve sophisticated crimes.
“In security, sometimes we need to disregard efficiency to achieve our goal. How can we solve cyber crime if we don’t have the tools?” Suhardi said.
Kompolnas member Hamidah Abdurrachman believes all the problems plaguing the force could be eradicated if the police had an innovative and courageous leader with high integrity.
“We need a National Police chief with a strong commitment to reform. The police have designed a great reform blueprint but they have never implemented it,” Hamidah said.
National Police milestones:
l Aug. 21, 1945: First Insp. Mochammad Jassin, a police commander in Surabaya, East Java, proclaims the launch of the National Police four days after Indonesia’s independence.
l Sept. 29, 1945: President Sukarno inaugurates the first National Police chief, Gen. R. S. Soekanto.
l 1960: The People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) designates the National Police within the Indonesian Armed Forces or ABRI (the former name of the current TNI).
l April 1, 1999: The MPR separates the National Police from the TNI.