On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

A need to spruce up badly dented image of police force

It cannot be denied that there  are some over-zealous policemen  who abuse their authority.

On the other hand, the force has  reacted
swiftly by charging the  constable with
the killing of Dr  Tai.

Those who have demanded answers to the killing must understand that the matter
is now in the  hands of the courts.

Policing is a tough job but there  is
much the force can do to improve its image. For a start, putting on a friendly
face will help.

Generally, Malaysians do not  have
serious complaints against  the force.
The misforgivings are  mostly about the
mata-mata who  hide behind trees to stop

Still, many of the complainants  are
guilty themselves in offering  bribes to
these policemen.

The force is understaffed and  needs some
beefing up. There have  been complaints
of the police arriving late at a crime scene.

A break-in may be a petty crime,  but a
complainant expects immediate attention. He expects the culprit to be
apprehended, even if the  circumstances
may not allow it.

Public expectation is indeed high   even
unrealistic at times.

We expect the police to make  sure that
demonstrators do not  turn unruly; at the
same time we  expect them to use kid's
gloves on  these demonstrators.

When protestors are arrested,  police
brutality is often alleged.  When
policemen are attacked, it is  always
retaliation due to provocation by the cops.

And when a policeman is killed  in the
line of duty, there is hardly  any
sympathy  as if it is expected of them to
lay down their lives.

There is a lot that needs to be  done to
improve the force but we  should not
dampen the morale of  policemen.

A sober approach is called for.  We
cannot ignore the fact that  there has
been an increase in the  crime rate and the
police have  been directed to step up

There will be checks and inspections, particularly on suspicious  people in isolated areas. If we expect the
police to perform, we  should not see
these checks as harassment.

Crimes have become more frequent and brutal. No one has still  been charged with the murder of  Johor Baru Deputy OCPD Supt  Mazlah Jamil. And the murder of  student Audrey Melissa remains a  mystery.

But there are cases which have  dented
the image of the force.  Many of us
remember the shoot out in Tumpat last October when  six men, including an MIC division  Youth chief, were shot dead. Or the  accidental shooting of a Bank Simpanan
Nasional teller in January.

We want our police to be tough  but we
also want them to restrain  themselves.

There must be a middle path,  surely. The
police could start by  re-examining their
approach while  on crime rounds.

Weapons should only be used if  there is
reason to believe that the  subject is
dangerous. It is ridiculous, for example, to shoot an unarmed person in the

There are rules and guidelines  on the
use of firearms and they  clearly define
the specific situation that merits the use of a gun, as  Inspector-General of Police Tan  Sri Norian Mai said.

What needs to be done is to re emphasise some of these points to  our policemen.

There must be an honest review  on the
exercise of power to ensure  that
confidence in the force is 

Added manpower and better  equipment
alone will not necessarily improve the force. Our policemen need to upgrade
their skills,  too.

Fighting crime has become more  complex.
Policemen need to be  trained in
information technology,  accounting and
even business  management to counter
cyber  crimes and white-collar

All these will not be sufficient if  the
salaries and career prospects  are

Malaysians should play their  part in
crime prevention. Neighbourhood committees and non government organisations
can  work with the force to establish a  strong bond 
and to deter attempts to portray policemen as villains in uniform.

It's time our policemen get their  act
together. Let the shooting of Dr  Tai be
the last.