KontraS evaluates Police work performance: There is still work to be done

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(photo: IO/Yoga)

IO, Jakarta – To celebrate the 73rd Anniversary of the Police Force of the Republic of Indonesia (Kepolisian Republik Indonesia – “Polri”), The Commission of Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Komisi Untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Tindak Kekerasan – “KontraS”) again reported Polri’s Work Performance Evaluation Report for the 2018-2019 period. The Report was made to help maintain and improve Polri’s work, so that it continues to respect human rights, professionalism, and accountability.

KontraS’ Evaluation Report noted at least 643 separate reports of police brutality from Polsek to Regional Precinct levels. “We have recorded 643 cases of brutality, such as arbitrary arrests that caused deaths and injuries. The highest number of victims are criminals (388 cases), random civilians (174 cases), college students (40 cases), and journalists (13 cases). This finding does not mean that Chief of Police General Tito Karnavian and his men failed in their duty, but there is still work to be done for  improvement,” said KontraS Coordinator Yati Andriyani in the discussion themed “Neutrality, Discretion, and Culture of Violence Still Challenge the Police” held in Cikini, Jakarta, on Monday (01/07/2019).

These cases of violence performed by the Police include shootings, torture, abuse, and arbitrary arrests that cause deaths and injuries. Members of the Polri have also been found of having abused their authority and discretion by using violence in handling cases or in law enforcement processes. Finally, internal and external police monitoring are weak.

The above situation shows that Polri faces the paradox of an institutional position: police officers have much latitude to move in their effort to maintain public security as the protector human rights, yet it is this very privilege that frequently causes unilateral interpretation and abuse of power and authority, which ends up in a violation on human rights. In such cases, it is the Police that ended up becoming human rights violators.

KontraS also highlights the socio-political context of police work throughout 2018-2019. Yati stated that Polri has been sorely tested by the side effects of a fierce political contest. She noted that the Police frequently relied on the authority of their discretion to process the crimes of hate speech, hoaxes, defamation, and conspiracies. For example, in conspiracy cases, Investigators initially mentioned a number of people suspected of being involved in a conspiracy to assassinate a number of public figures. Yati stated that at such critical points, there were accusations that the Police criminalized ulema and the opposition, even though in fact they also received reports of criminal actions from the Government’s opposition. “For example, there were prohibitions of the #2019GantiPresiden (“#2019ChangePresidents”) in several regions and the widespread use of Defamation Law, the Electronic Information and Transaction (Informasi dan Transaksi Elektronik – “ITE”) Law, and Conspiration Law,” she said.

However, Investigators would also easily delay arrests of relevant parties, for example, that of the parties that are suspected to be targets for assassination. “Wouldn’t this make the public question whether such discretion is purely used for law enforcement? No matter what, Polri must be able to remain professional, to maintain their neutrality as law enforcers, as the caretakers and protectors of the community. They must not favor any specific institution or political interest whatsoever. In this political year, it is clear how Polri was trapped in the middle of the political contest storm,” Yati said. 

KontraS further stated that the issue of the Police use of firearms is more dominantly discussed than other issues, such as torture and the bad handling of protesters that result in death. KontraS Investigator Rivanlee Anandar stated that there have been 423 cases of shooting that caused 435 injuries and 229 deaths. KontraS found that firearms are most frequently used in processing criminal cases such as thefts, robberies, muggings, and murders.

Furthermore, Rivanlee noted that members of the Police who have performed such arbitrary actions frequently are not punished or sanctioned: that would provide a deterrent effect. “In fact, in some cases members of the Police attempted to cover up the case by apologizing and issuing a Statement Letter to such shooting victims,” he said.

Rivanlee stated that there are three things that members of the Police need to note regarding the use of firearms. First, all incidents that involve the use of firearms must be reported and followed up on by higher officials. “The higher official must then take responsibility for all actions taken by officers under his command. And finally, officers who violate such regulations should not be excused on the grounds of ‘merely following their superior officer’s command’,” he said.

Responding to KontraS’ findings, the Head of the Bureau of Public Information of Polri’s PR Division Brigadier General Dedi Prasetyo stated that Polri always acts according to legal facts and prioritizes the principle of presumption of innocence and the principle of equality before the law when handling cases. He stated that of the numerous cases handled by the Police, from Polsek level to Polri Headquarter levels, the crime clearance rate is 60%. “Crime clearance” is the number of cases resolved by the Police after being reported to them. “Of the millions of cases handled by the Polri from Polsek, Area Precinct, Regional Precinct, and Polri Headquarters, our crime clearance rate of over 60% is one of the highest in the world,” Dedi stated on Monday (01/07/2019). (Dan)