Heart and Soul: Proud to be in the police force

The Royal Malaysia Police contigent marching during the 66th Merdeka celebrations in Putrajaya on Aug 31, 2023. Photo: The Star/Azhar Mahfof

Heart & Soul
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On March 25, the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP) will celebrate 217 years since it was established. It is a special day for those affiliated directly or indirectly, past and present, with the organisation, whether they are sworn or unsworn serving officers, retired officers, police volunteers, auxiliary police, police cadets, or undergraduate police volunteer corps of public universities (SUKSIS). On that day, all police communities will take time to remember the official commencement of an organised police force in the country.

On March 25, 1807, the Royal Charter of Justice was first presented by the British Government to the East India Company, empowering the company to exercise jurisdiction over all criminal and civil matters within Prince of Wales Island (as Penang was then known). Therefore, the day marks a significant event in Malaysian policing history.

Although English law provides the foundation for the Charter of Justice, the charter has been subject to many changes to accommodate local conditions and needs. The rich and colourful history of the RMP has created many waves of change that have influenced this country’s policy and blueprints.

The RMP has faced many challenges over time. Its efforts to meet the community’s growing demands in preserving peace and security are never easy or free from controversy. Despite that, the RMP has successfully ensured its survival through committed service by many individuals. In the process of safeguarding the people, land, and His Highness the king’s safety and security, many lives have been sacrificed. These are the unsung heroes of the country and the organisation. Many of their names and contributions are commemorated on this special day.

I have been with the police service for almost 20 years and have had the privilege of serving under eight Inspectors-General of Police. I can remember many memorable times with pride. I joined the service as a Cadet Assistant Superintendent of Police in 2004. Coming from a middle-class family where both parents were civil servants, I decided to continue the tradition. However, I had not anticipated being the first in the family to join the police service. I joined the service when it was in the middle of a vigorous transformation because the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation of the Royal Malaysia Police Force had just presented its 433-page report with 125 recommendations to the government. Issues concerning police image, integrity, efficiency, human rights, transparency, and community relationships were among the report’s highlights.

For police officers, it is difficult to please everyone all the time, and what is right and wrong is often not black and white. Using the law as our guide, decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis and discretion must be exercised regarding fairness and transparency.

Our job is not confined to dealing only with criminal activities and public disturbances but extends to domestic concerns, for example, family disputes and misunderstandings between neighbours. Issues that often require police officers’ discretion include traffic offences, crimes involving mentally ill individuals, and hate crimes. People seek our assistance in times of distress. We cannot choose to ignore those situations although no criminal elements are present. Every call of duty needs to be attended to. However, this also creates difficulties and stretches departmental resources.

Policing is different from other public services, primarily because of the power vested in police personnel by legislation. Since joining the force, however, I have seen progression in policing, and I have been strongly aware of serious efforts being undertaken by the leadership and government to ensure that the police service is one of the most respected public service departments in the country.

The current leadership of the RMP actively promotes police engagement with the community in eradicating crime through a variety of initiatives, programmes, and activities. I have sensed a change in public sentiment in recent years towards police personnel. The police are seen more as acceptable people than in the past when they were more likely to be seen as aggressors or government tools.

As we look forward to a better future for everyone in the country, the RMP will continuously play an important part in shaping the country’s security landscape together with the support of the Home Affairs Ministry as the parent organisation and all other enforcement agencies. Despite many new challenges, the RMP will stand tall no matter the circumstances, particularly because of its many sincere and committed personnel.

As the RMP is commencing its 217th year, I foresee a better and brighter future for the organisation and people of the country. With people from Gen X, Y, and Z making their way into every corner of civil administration, including the police service, and with their intelligent minds and different ways of doing things, I anticipate a better, more stable, and safer future for all of us. I will always be proud to be one of the men in blue. Happy 217th Police Day!

Supt Dr Sivabalan Suppiah is a serving officer with the Royal Malaysia Police. He is also an alumnus of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship from American University, Washington DC.

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