On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Fighting graft a bigger challenge

Although he already has his hands full taking on the criminals, he has promised that he will investigate allegations of corruption and that the public can give information about his officers if they have evidence. 

Musa has asked for evidence so the police can punish them or have the cases referred to the Anti Corruption Agency. He also said he welcomes whistle-blowers, including from within the force. 

This is a tough mission. For a start, Musa can find out how many of his officers are living beyond their means. Policemen must realise that they are not corporate figures and their lavish lifestyles would be questioned by the public since their salary scales are known to all. Their choice of houses, the location, their cars and club memberships must surely be seen as within their affordability. 

But law enforcement officers know the law well. Musa, who has a reputation as a clean cop, will find it difficult gathering evidence and getting witnesses willing to testify, even if he has his suspicions. 

There is nothing, however, to stop Musa from moving officers with tarnished reputations to departments where they will have little chance of getting their monthly envelopes of soiled money. Or for that matter, transferring them to states where gambling or entertainment outlets are almost non-existent. 

From the ordinary traffic cop who stops a foreign worker by the roadside to extort money to the big officer who deals with organised crime, the public have heard enough stories.  

But hearsay is not good enough, as everyone knows, and any action to clean up the force must not be seen as a witch-hunt, which would hurt morale. But if Musa is stern and committed to what he has set out to do, the rank-and-file will get the message and know the consequences of their actions. 

Musa has invited his men to forward information of corruption directly to him. This is something new as the present hierarchy method of reporting a wrong is, in many ways, a deterrent to whistle-blowers. 

How does one report against one's superiors, for example? But if the doors of Musa are opened to his officers, regardless of their positions, he has certainly set a precedent. 

Musa has also started well with his directive to the Public Affairs Department in Bukit Aman to create an interactive website for complaints and suggestions. In this multi-media age, it is much easier to e-mail instead of writing a letter and the website should allow the public to send video clips and pictures as well. 

There should also be templates of the various forms or reports for the public to download from the website to make the force more effective in the Internet age. 

But all the technology would be useless if Bukit Aman does not respond or carry out follow-up action effectively and promptly. Any report sent via e-mail, which must carry the person's full details, including his or her telephone numbers, must be taken seriously. 

Musa may want to consider making his e-mail address public so that Malaysians can send their mail direct to him. He, or at least his aides, can have direct access to the public this way. 

As the new boss, Musa would need to consider doing a revamp to strengthen his position and put in place officers who share his belief in going back to the basics – fighting crime and keeping a force of dedicated and clean officers. 

That is what a police force in any country is all about. The policeman's job is to maintain peace in the country and keeping the streets safe must surely be Musa's priority. 

In an interview with The Star, Musa said his priority would be to reduce major crime and to do that he would introduce more beat patrols and crime prevention rounds by uniformed policemen as well as detectives. 

He has also directed the redeployment of 800 personnel in Bukit Aman whom he found in a recent survey to be doing overlapping duties. He said they should be doing real policing work instead. 

Since a major complaint from the public is the perceived absence of policemen, a more visible presence of policemen, especially in busy areas, will make the public feel safe. We certainly welcome Musa's commitment to have more beat duties. 

Musa also said there were many areas within the force that needed to be restructured to better serve the public. But this cannot be done overnight and he has asked Malaysians to give him time and support 

The new IGP, I am sure, can count on the backing of all Malaysians who want to see him succeed in his mission. We understand his difficulties and the task ahead and, for sure, Malaysians would be realistic in their expectations of him.  

No one expects overnight changes but it is the hope of the public that given enough time, the new IGP will be able to carry out his task well. We wish him all the best.