Anugerah Rizki Akbari


Marking its 71st anniversary on Friday, the National Police welcomed its new leader, Gen. Tito Karnavian. Unlike the chaotic candidacy of Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan for the top police position last year, all parties supported without reservation President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s choice of Tito as his sole nominee for the post.

With his excellent professional and academic credentials, Tito, formerly the head of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), enjoyed a smooth process of approval by the House of Representatives, during which he pledged to transform the force into a better organization.

Nevertheless, Tito now faces the same question posed to his predecessors: Will he fulfill his promises?

There is no doubt that corruption is a highly pathogenic virus infecting the police. As an illustration, in 2013 the National Police force was named the most corrupt institution in the country, as were its counterparts in 36 countries, according to a survey by the Global Corruption Barometer. Two years later, the World Justice Project (WJP) found that Indonesia’s absence of corruption in the police was below regional average. In the same year, 38 percent of respondents to a Transparency International Indonesia survey said their interactions with police officer ended in bribe payments.

The gravity of graft practices involving police officers has been made stark with the arrest of several police generals in recent years. In 2011, former detective chief Susno Duadji was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for accepting a bribe and misusing funds allocated to secure an election in West Java in 2008. Previously, former National Police traffic directorate chief Insp. Gen. Djoko Susilo was handed a 10-year prison term for corruption in the procurement of driving simulators.

Furthermore, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named Budi a graft suspect in December 2014, although the case was eventually dropped following a court verdict that found the KPK lacked justification to ensnare Budi, who was then the police chief candidate.

Police corruption in general stems from abuse of power, which can be divided into four categories. First is straightforward corruption, which is a reward in exchange for action or inaction. Taking a bribe falls under this type of corruption. Second is strategic corruption, which involves an active stimulation of crime by police officers in order to extort money or goods.

Third is combative corruption, which is intentionally aimed at strengthening the police cases through unlawful means. This particular form of corruption is predominantly found in drug-related cases where police officers trick potential suspects to illegally build the cases. Lastly, there is the kind of corruption involving distracting justice with the purpose of either seeking revenge or avoiding prosecution.

The police force under Tito needs to address these ingrained problems. To a large extent, police corruption has flourished because of a lack of accountability. For instance, police enjoy very limited oversight in naming a crime suspect. While pretrial appeals can clarify whether such procedures have complied with the standard laid down in internal police regulations, it would be much fairer if the control mechanism were enacted before the police declared someone a suspect.

Allowing the judiciary to verify whether there is enough evidence for the police to launch a criminal investigation would significantly curb opportunities to commit corruption. Hence, this mechanism has to be included in the amendments to the Criminal Procedures Code (KUHAP) and the new police chief must support it.

Aside from cleaning up the institution from corruption, Tito has to evaluate the effectiveness of current policing strategies. In this regard, it is important to understand that the nature of policing is complicated, since it faces contradictory commands, namely to serve people and at the same time to exert power over them. That being said, the measurement of effective policing has to take both sides into account.

First and foremost, protection of suspects’ rights remains a major concern in Indonesian policing practices. The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) reported that between May 2015 and May 2016 alone 91 cases of torture and other inhumane treatment were found to have been committed by the police.

The WJP also found that Indonesia scored only 0.35 out of 1 in terms of protection of the rights of suspects, including freedom from torture and abusive treatment. This problem will not disappear unless the police leader orders his subordinates to uphold human rights and punishes those who violate this instruction.

Second, in the field of crime control, the issue is two-pronged. To begin with, the police force relies heavily on the mechanisms of criminal law to reduce crime. This is understandable considering its traditional mandate as a law enforcement agency. Nonetheless, the law itself cannot answer every single question regarding crime reduction. There is a growing necessity to involve interdisciplinary interventions to this realm. In the meantime, lack of recorded crime rates in Indonesia makes it difficult for the police to validly acclaim their work. On that account, Tito needs to instruct the police to firmly record crimes over time and make the information easily accessible to the public.

Considering the complex challenges in policing, it is quite intriguing to see what changes Tito can bring to the police. However, one thing is certain: Police reform cannot be delayed.

The writer teaches in the Criminal Law Department of the School of Law at the University of Indonesia in Depok, West Java.

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