On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Strengthen police force with quality beef-up

It is an unhealthy development in a multi-racial society
like Malaysia if the police force, as a key institution, does not have broad
racial representation.

Besides, representation from all racial groups would make the police stronger,
particularly in gathering information for intelligence or investigative

One reason why the Malaysian police had been successful in fighting the
communists since the 1960s was because the Special Branch had many Chinese
officers. These dedicated officers, operating in secrecy, were able to
infiltrate the Communist Party of Malaya and other leftist groups.

If these Chinese policemen were not part of the police force, the job would
have been near impossible, given the fact that the CPM was made up of mostly
Chinese members.

So effective was the Special Branch that its officers were – and still are –
regarded as one of the best in the world.

Today, the needs of the Malaysian police force have changed. While a racially
balanced force is important, it also needs more educated and qualified people
to fight crime.

It needs accountants, lawyers, psychologists, computer experts, economists,
public relations practitioners and specialists from various fields as the scope
of policing widens.

For example, there is a need for officers who can read balance sheets and make
sense of complex management terms in order to fight white-collar crime. And
only computer-savvy policemen can track down banking and credit-card

In other words, muscle alone is insufficient in fighting crime today. To
attract talented and qualified Malaysians to join the force, we have to convince
them that there is good prospect in police work.

We can rope in political parties, the media and community groups to encourage
young people to become policemen but no amount of cajoling will work if
benefits are lacking and the pay is low.

It has nothing to do with patriotism. No ethnic group should be blamed when the
government is unable to come up with an attractive pay package.

If the starting pay of a police constable is RM684, we should not expect the
young to rush to sign up. Our politicians and police bigwigs may publicly
refuse to accept the grave problem of poor salaries of constables but how many
of them are prepared to ask their children to join the force.

The rank and file deserve better pay because of their high-risk work. They
deserve a minimum starting salary of at least RM 1,000 and other benefits
including overtime allowances.

Better pay would inspire professionalism and greater self-confidence and pride
in their work. Certainly, they would be less tempted by corruption.

To attract young people to the force, they must be convinced that there are
promotion prospects. Thus, there must be a greater sense of meritocracy when it
comes to promotion.

Unless we keep an open mind, our efforts to fill up the 4,000 vacancies in the
force would come to nought. Public expectations of the force are high and no
one can deny that the police have done a competent job in keeping our streets

While the number of petty crimes has increased, our police have generally
performed well. Lately, though, crime has become a favourite dinner

The public understands that the force is short of personnel but they expect
politicians to solve the problem fast. After all, politicians are elected to
address the grievances of the people and they should be responsive.

We will never be able to recruit talented, dedicated and qualified doctors,
nurses, teachers, policemen, firemen, engineers, soldiers and diplomats into
our civil service if we do not reward them.

Our policemen deserve better. It's time to cut the rhetoric and the lame
excuses if we are serious about recruiting the best crime fighters, regardless
of race, into the police force.