Subject: Police Reform in Indonesia a 'Lost Cause:' Experts

The Jakarta Post

May 14, 2009

Promise of reform in police force a lost cause: Experts

Promised reforms in the police force are progressing too slowly and are not in line with realities in the field, a discussion concluded Wednesday.

Neta S. Pane, head of the Indonesian Police Watch presidium, said high-ranking police officers maintained they were enforcing reforms but the message was not being passed on.

"Those declarations stop at high officials, while those in the lower ranks of the police hierarchy, closer to the public, still misuse their powers," Neta told the discussion on police performance.

Recent events have shown the potential for police to become involved in criminal activity. Former South Jakarta Police chief Sr.

Comr. Wiliardi Wizar was arrested recently for his alleged involvement in the high-profile murder of businessman Nasruddin Zulkarnaen.

Neta said in a two-month period at the end of last year, more than 750 officers were caught accepting bribes, 440 were charged with disciplinary action, 230 were reprimanded for breaching their duties and around 40 others engaged in criminal acts.

Neta said the high instance of extortion by police officers at seaports had caused big losses in the business sector and discouraged investors from continuing operations in the country. Asvinawati, director of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, said police often capitalized on loopholes in existing laws.

She claimed a detective once said, "There is no law here. What we have is orders from superiors".

When people demonstrate in the street, she cited as an example, often officers would confiscate megaphones and speakers. When the police were asked for written orders to justify their actions, they often replied, "This is the order!"

The expression "just following orders from the boss" is commonly used in the police force to justify actions, Asvinawati said.

The way in which police treat suspects and even victims of crimes, she said, was appalling. Rape victims are often treated as suspects, not as victims, and asked degrading questions, Asvinawati told the seminar.

Some victims were allegedly asked questions like, "Why were you raped in the first place?" by the very officers supposed to be investigating the crime.

"I have received many cases about breaches of duty in the police force, and I have filed those cases with the police's internal affairs and security division (Propam)," Jazuni, a law practitioner, said.

"But I suspect the line of internal supervision is a dead end. I think there is no difference between cases being processed or those simply thrown in the trash."

"You [public] should ask the police to fulfil their promise of reform," Pandu Praja, secretary of the National Police Commission, said.

Asked if the commission could take action against generals involved in crimes, Pandu said, "No. Our duties are only to make policies and offer insight to the President and the police chief. It's up to them."

In response, Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Adj. Comr. Chrysnanda said, "We need a process of change. We are the subject of too much mockery, and need to push for empowerment.

"Please, let's appreciate the positive things the police force has done," he told The Jakarta Post.

"There have been reforms in structure, instruments and culture. If the process is considered slow, then please provide us with insight." (iwp)

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