The police officers who helped make the Chinese constable drive a success share their personal stories with Sunday Star.
ACP Gan Choon Hong comes from a proud family of police officers.
The 58-year-old former temporary teacher jumped at the chance to be a cop 38 years ago, thanks to a suggestion from her brother, a retired policeman.
ACP Gan, who is Bukit Aman Special Branch (administration) sub-section head, met her husband “at work” and both her daughter and son-in-law are also in active service.
“It makes me very proud that six of us are ‘blue bloods’ – that’s nearly the entire family.
“My 22-year-old son is also showing a keen interest to join the family profession and I hope my 18-month-old grandson will continue the legacy.”
The doting grandmother has no reservations about being involved in what many perceive as a “risky business”.
She insists that every vocation has its perils and as long as standard operating procedures are followed, risks can be minimised.
“But if we have to sacrifice our lives in the course of duty, so be it. I will accept it even if it involves my own family members,” she says without batting an eyelid.
Relating how a youth once asked why there was no Chinese holding the post of Inspector-General of Police (IGP) or other top positions, she says the community has to be realistic.
With Chinese personnel making up only about 1.8% of the force, she says, it is not logical to expect many top posts to be helmed by them. There are about 115,000 uniformed personnel in the country, 81.4% of whom are Malays and 3.2% Indians. Over 13% or 15,211 are from other races.
“It’s also not true to say that there are no opportunities for non-bumiputras. Look at us here today,” she says.
ACP Gan feels that unlike the private sector, which is more individualistic, the police force is one big family.
The nationwide drive to recruit Chinese youths to join the force as constables was an eye-opening experience for the veteran.
It proved to her that Chinese youths are patriotic and eager to join the force.
“There was one very pretty gymnast in Shah Alam whose dream was to become a police officer. She is the eldest of three children and the only daughter. Her parents had already paid RM40,000 for her A-Levels but were still supportive of her decision to join us. It was very heartening to see,” she says.
Police Undergraduate Voluntary Corps (Suksis) coordinator ASP Foo Chek Seng agrees.
Under the Suksis programme, the nation’s Gen-Y are exposed to the life of a police officer and will hopefully want to join the force upon graduation, the youthful-looking 46-year-old explains.
He says the majority of Chinese Gen-Y are receptive towards a policing career once they know what it entails. There are noticeably more Chinese youths joining Suksis of late, he observes.
“Our youths get a lot of information from social media, so we must engage with them personally to clarify whatever misconceptions they may have of us. We must learn to trust the Gen-Y. They see things very differently from us but that is not necessarily a bad thing.”
For him, being part of a minority group (in the force) simply means having to forge closer collaboration to make a bigger impact.
Teamwork is something unique and special to the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP), ASP Foo says. “I love my job. I really do.”
That is a feeling L/Kpl Teng Sai Hou, 32, can relate to. “I’ve always wanted to wear the uniform to look smart. It was only when I got to don it that I understood the heavy responsibility it carried,” he admits.
Growing up, the Ipoh boy remembers vividly how he enjoyed playing “cops and robbers” – and he was always the cop. It’s evident that he never outgrew that childhood obsession.
Failing to get an SPM credit in Bahasa Malaysia did not stop him. He joined as an auxiliary officer in the Bukit Aman corporate communication secretariat and is now on his way to being promoted to cadet sergeant after obtaining a diploma in communications.
“The police gave me a chance to prove myself. I re-sat the Bahasa Malaysia paper and managed to get a credit. I haven’t looked back since,” he says.
L/Kpl Teng, who is currently pursuing a degree in management at Universiti Sains Malaysia, says his Bukit Aman family have been very supportive in motivating him to study.
Commenting on the application of storekeeper Chor Wui Loy, who recently attempted for the eighth time to fulfil his dream of becoming a policeman, Bukit Aman assistant director of personnel (recruitment) Asst Comm Saiful Azly Kamaruddin says that while he is sympathetic, the height requirement cannot be compromised as it is a “must” in the Public Service Department scheme.
“I’m very sorry. It’s 163cm for men and 157cm for ladies,” ACP Saiful says.
The 28-year-old Chor fell several centimetres short.
The lack of Chinese participation previously was due to several reasons – mostly wrong perceptions about the force, ACP Saiful insists.
And the lack of parental encouragement in some cases do not help. “During the nationwide campaign, we got all our Chinese officers to address the parents’ worries based on their own experiences,” he says.
Perceptions of low salary, poor benefits, lack of career advancement and institutionalised racism are not the reality, he says.
Clarifying “some myths”, ACP Saiful says the RM1,014 basic pay for a constable does not include various allowances. Even during the initial training period, a constable is already earning about RM1,604, he reveals.
While the older generation reminisces about a more multi-racial force, he believes that it still rings true today as there are higher ranked Chinese officers.
“It’s just the rank-and-file that needs beefing up. Having Chinese personnel, especially in the front office, would help break barriers between the police and the community and change the perception that the force is one-sided.”
Bukit Aman Special Branch (administration) sub-section head ASP Hew Kim Choy, 56, has been a policeman for more than three decades and while he admits that adjusting in the early years was a challenge, he says it had nothing to do with race relations.
“Regardless of skin colour, we face the same obstacles and we work through them together. For me, getting used to the discipline was a tougher adjustment.”
ASP Hew advises young recruits to always upgrade their skills, especially academically, because “you can’t just sit around doing nothing and expect promotions”.
MCA Youth, which has rallied its state representatives to reach out to the Chinese community, want the police to make good on their word.
The wing’s chief Chong Sin Woon says the successful drive proves that talk of Chinese youngsters being unpatriotic and uninterested in joining the force is “one big fallacy”.
Chong, who is also a senator, says the positive response nationwide was evidence of the community’s eagerness to be recruited.
The ball is now in their (Royal Malaysia Police) court, he says.
“So many have applied but how many will actually get in? Some applicants complained that they are tired of applying again after facing rejection previously for being too short or too fat. They feel it’s unfair because exceptions were made but not for them.”
The wing, however, will continue to monitor the new applicants’ progress during the recruitment process and training, he assures.
Hardworking police personnel overlooked for promotions or qualified applicants who were rejected will be among the issues Chong promises to raise in the Dewan Negara.
He says the drive for Chinese recruits must continue from time to time to ensure that the community’s representation in the force reflects the ideal racial composition.