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Good Cop, Bad Cop: A Globe Special Report on Police in Indonesia

Sumber: THEJAKARTAGLOBE.COM | Tgl terbit: Senin, 03 Agustus 2009

Kafil Yamin

On a hot and sticky recent Saturday, hundreds of travelers heading out of the capital to Bogor found themselves stranded in “UKI,” a well-known transportation depot in East Jakarta, perplexed about why they couldn’t find any transportation.

“I heard that regular buses are no longer allowed to make a stopover here. It’s a shame the police haven’t told us about this. They should have announced it,” said Sukri, a traveler who was forced to hire a taxi to continue on to Bogor, paying a much higher fare.

Some travelers shared taxis to Bogor to split the cost, while others jointly hired minivans. It was not at all like Jakarta, where transportation can be found just about anywhere, all because traffic regulations were actually being enforced. UKI isn’t an official bus depot, and buses technically aren’t allowed to make a stop there to pick up passengers, but that’s how it’s been done for years because local police never enforced the law.

It’s a no-brainer as to why: as one bus driver explained, each bus heading for Bekasi, Tangerang, Sukabumi, Bogor or other points in Banten and West Java paid police officers Rp 20,000 to stop at UKI and take on more passengers. So, despite a huge billboard warning that “Stopping and taking passengers is prohibited here,” lines of big buses have been a common sight and regular cause of traffic jams.

But in recent weeks, the vehicle congestion has slackened and traffic flows more smoothly. The area has also been cleared of street thugs, or preman, who extort money from taxis as they pick up passengers.

“If we did not give the money, the preman would just hit our car with a brick or iron stick,” said one driver. “And even if the police were around, they would not help us. But the preman are not here anymore.”

So what’s happened? Why is UKI suddenly a model area in the Jakarta chaos? In street food stalls, schools and offices, word has gotten around the past few weeks: the police are getting nicer, not to mention more professional. “We now rarely find police out on the streets looking for drivers who break the rules, which is a result of only one thing: money,” said a minivan driver on the UKI–Slipi route. “There are still some police like that, of course.”

Agents of Change?

A 2008 survey by AC Nielsen and the Japan International Cooperation Agency showed that 36 percent of respondents in several major Indonesian cities felt the police had changed for the better. In Surabaya, a survey last year by the Asia Foundation, a US-based international development group, found residents there viewed the police as kind and respectful.

Are police across the nation, who regularly make headlines for alleged extortion, kidnappings, torture and extradjudicial killings, getting better? Based on a Jakarta Globe investigation, the answer is: yes and no. Some parts of the institution have changed since the National Police were separated from the Armed Forces in 1999, while others have not.

Although the National Police have added 100,000 new officers over the last four years, Indonesia is far short of the one officer per 600 citizens ratio that law enforcement experts recommend.

The most obvious change, according to Leopold Sudaryono, law program coordinator at the Asia Foundation, is that public services such as issuing driver’s licenses and processing vehicle tax payments are faster now. Other reforms are not as visible, but all stem from the fact that the National Police’s annual budget has soared from Rp 3.5 trillion ($346 million) 10 years ago to Rp 30 trillion today.

But money can’t buy everything. The National Police are in a constant fight against their own appalling reputation as human rights abusers instead of rights defenders; law breakers instead of law enforcers; community oppressors instead of community servants.
Leo acknowledges that reforms have been very slow in the middle-to-lower levels of the police, but said that, 10 years after the reformasi (reform) battle cry, we’re just in the first stages of reform.

“It’s like the process of the so-called regional autonomy, or decentralization. In the first phase, the scheme was merely a transfer of corruption from central to regional administrations,” he said. “But then comes a phase of public accountability, when people demand transparency and fight any irregularities, which is taking place now.

“The police reform will unavoidably come to that phase,” Leo said.

Last year, the Jakarta Police declared war on preman, arresting nearly 3,000 thugs and gang members. They also intensified anticrime operations, rounded up street prostitutes and began stringent enforcement of traffic regulations.

Internally, the National Police have imposed more rigorous punishment on its own members. The polisi nakal (bad cops) were scolded, while many were fired and shamed by having their names made public.

As part of an image-building campaign that began in October 2008, city police fired 160 policemen and punished 230 others for various violations.

Between May 2008 and March 2009, the National Police investigated 129 cases of violations by officers, resulting in 81 court cases and 49 officers being fired.

“A number of cases are still at trial,” National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri told the Globe.

But the internal battle to create good cops is a tough challenge. Public complaints about police extorting money are commonplace, with gangs of bad cops roaming the system. Worse, the so-called bad police are still free to roam around the city to prey on people.
In April, dozens of pharmacy owners in North and Central Jakarta went public about a police gang that had been blackmailing them for five years. The officers would burst into their shops, grab medicines, claim they were “illegal drugs” and give the owners two choices: pay up or go to jail.

“Of course we have some expired stuff to be returned to our distributors,” said Narni, a harmacy owner in Sunter, North Jakarta, who said he paid the crooked police Rp 30 million.

Samsul Bahri Rajam, a Jakarta lawyer, says police extortion is common in Indonesia’s major cities. “So the number of victims can be in the thousands and even hundreds of thousands.”

Rights and Wrongs

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) says the National Police have been accused of more human rights violations so far this year than any other state agency. Nur Cholis, a member of the monitoring division of Komnas HAM, said that of the 202 complaints filed, 180 of them were against police.

“The figure shows that the police still prefer to use force in solving problems, while claiming they have become community police who favor persuasive measures,” Nur Cholis said, adding that the complaints ranged from torture during interrogation, to forcing suspects to sign investigation reports, to murdering suspects.

Research conducted by the Legal Aid Institute (LBH) between 2007 and 2008 indicated that 83.65 percent of detained suspects nationwide had suffered physical abuse by police.

“The number of cases may even be higher,” said LBH chairman Patra Muhammad Zein. “The figure only represents what our survey could find.”

The institute interviewed detained suspects in Pondok Bambu, Tangerang, Salemba and Cipinang prisons, and most respondents said they were tortured into confessing during interrogation.

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) has brought to light three recent cases of alleged abuse by police. In April, relatives of the victims told Kontras a suspect named Carmadi died during interrogation in Slawi, Central Java, after being detained for allegedly attacking a campaigner for a legislative candidate in West Java.

Carmadi’s family said that before he died Carmadi told them that police investigators tortured him, showing them scars on his neck and a large cut on the back of his head. He also had a broken rib and had lost his hearing, his family said. The Slawi district police chief, Wahyu Handoyo, however, said that Carmadi committed suicide, according to Kontras.

On April 5, suspect Bayu Perdana Putra died in police custody three days after he was arrested in North Jakarta. Bayu’s father found multiple gunshot wounds to his chest and stab wounds to his legs when examining the body. According to Kontras, a North Jakarta Police officer named Santoso claimed that officers had been forced to shoot Bayu because he had tried to escape.

On April 29, police in Cirebon, West Java, arrested Zainal Muhammad Latif at his home in the Taman Bajakarta housing complex for allegedly being involved in drug trafficking, according to Kontras. While in custody, Zaenal was blindfolded and gagged, then beaten by 10 police officers, the group said, adding that officers burned his chest with lit cigarettes.

On April 30, police released him with a warning not to tell anyone about the abuse during his arrest and questioning.

Last year, several nongovernmental organizations filed a lawsuit against Bambang, the National Police chief, and Minister of Justice and Human Rights Andi Matalatta, claiming gross human rights violations against police detainees and suspects. The case is now in court.

During the Suharto era, when the National Police was part of the Armed Forces, it was widely known that political opposition figures and activists suffered shocking abuse during police questioning including beatings, electrocutions and having fingernails or toenails ripped out. Abuse was standard operating procedure.

Open to Reform

When the police were separated from the military, international aid groups made a point to teach basic human rights to officers who had never been told that detainees and prisoners were entitled to them. Groups such as the International Organization for Migration have been educating police since 2004, mainly in investigation techniques and principles of basic human rights.

Monica Tanuhandaru, an IOM coordinator, said the National Police now has an established human rights handbook, and as a result, the “use of force during investigations is gradually decreasing.”

She acknowledged that some old practices remain, including police recruits paying money to be admitted to the force. According to several sources who helped their sons get recruited, the going rate is between Rp 70 million and Rp 80 million.

Tanuhandaru said the IOM’s overall police reform program began in 2000 and would last for 25 years. “Such practices will hopefully vanish before the program concludes.”

“I think if you compare how the police were during the Suharto era and how they are now, you will see how different it is,” she said.
“In 2005, we did research on police in Aceh, and we found that police were still using force and torture. In 2008, we did research again and found not a single case of such practices.”

Tanuhandaru said accountability and transparency were among the striking changes. “Now they are more open with information about how many cases they are working on, how many cases they have finished and how many cases they cannot handle,” she said.

For decades, bad police behavior was explained away by saying the force was chronically underfunded, undertrained and ill equipped. But that excuse has worn out its welcome. “Now it has become a cliche, because the National Police budget has increased and police receive better wages,” Tanuhandaru said.

The National Police imposed a new regulation on interrogating suspects in 2007 requiring that a defense lawyer and police supervisors be present. The new mechanism is supposed to stop abusive conduct by police during questioning.

“We are determined to create clean officers by any means,” said Bambang, the National Police chief, who rebuffed concerns that police reform is progressing too slowly. “The change is very fast. I feel it.

“We have developed transparent investigations, quick responses, and we are continuing to reshape our bureaucracy to become more efficient,” he told the Globe in a recent interview.

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