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Indonesia needs to push reform within police force

Publication Date : 06-07-2012


Without internal reforms, the Indonesian Police will continue to use excessive force when dealing with demonstrations.

Sociologist Tamrin Tomagola of the University of Indonesia said the government needs to push for reform within the National Police.

"We need a statement from the President that police must stop committing violence. A firm statement from the President will end violent conduct by police officers," Tomagola said at a recent forum to coincide with the 66th anniversary of the National Police, on July 1.

So far, Tomagola said, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had, unfortunately, only made suggestions to the police force whenever police officers committed violence.

He was responding to a sobering report released by the Indonesian Police Watch that the police force habitually use violent measures when dealing with protests, and that police behaviour and accountability has been in general decline over the last three years.

The report includes data showing that the police shot 97 innocent civilians, killing 19 of them, in separate incidents.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Institute of Sciences researcher Jaleswari Pramodhawardani said that police action has to be seen from a historical perspective.

"We can't look at the police behaviour today without putting it into the context of their military past," Pramodhawardani said, referring to the time when the police force was a division of the Indonesian Military until their separation in 1999.

"The numerous examples of police abuse are proof that there are still residues of military culture imprinted in the police."

This cultural footprint, Pramodhawardani says, will take a long time to disappear.

National Police Commission (Kompolnas) leader Syafriadi Cut Ali said any violence that occurred during police contact with civilians was unintentional.

"The police are a state institution in direct contact with the public. There will always be excesses. When trouble occurs, the self-defence instincts of the police naturally come up," Ali said.

National Police reform bureau head Brig. Gen. Andjaja admitted police involvement in violence.

"We admit that there are violent police officers. Acts of police brutality exist. They sadden us, but they're still happening, and we can't allow it," Andjaja said.

Andjaja suggested the government strengthen tolerance and nationalism among the populace to curb the number of conflicts involving the police force.

Earlier, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence(Kontras) said human rights abuses could be avoided if the police were fully committed to their own standard operational procedures.

Kontras has recorded 14 incidences of torture and 11 major incidents involving excessive force. It also listed 20 arbitrary arrests and eight incidents of condoning acts of brutality by vigilante groups.

Commission coordinator Haris Azhar said police personnel employed repressive measures when dispersing demonstrators in the recent fuel price hike demonstrations.

Furthermore, police had all too frequently tolerated the use of force by religious groups.


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