Police Day: Acknowledging the unseen efforts and quiet sacrifices of the force

The writer (front row, far right) with her fellow police volunteer reserve officers in Ipoh, Perak. Photo: CHEAH PHAIK KIN

Police Day is a reminder of the oath I took when I joined the Royal Malaysia Police force as a volunteer reserve officer. It is a time when many are watching how we, in public service roles, do our jobs. The recent bad press has put more pressure on all police officers to not just act, but to exemplify the highest standards of integrity.

As they say, what counts cannot always be counted. In today's world, especially with the influence of social media and performance indices, it often feels like what we display outwardly matters more than what is unseen.

Doing the right things is not more important than doing things the right way. We have always known that. However, the aspects that are visible and quantifiable seem to dominate, suggesting that only what can be measured or showcased is valued more.

Integrity beyond visible measures

The true essence of integrity in policing lies beyond these visible measures. It is about the commitment and honesty we uphold when nobody is watching, and the principles we adhere to even when they are not highlighted in a performance review or a social media post.

I cannot speak for others but, from my personal experience in police work, no one knows the silent tears of the victims we have comforted, the subtle interventions that stopped situations from escalating, or the discreet advice or simply our presence, that had prevented countless potential misdeeds. But the results on paper are naught: No arrests to show, no police reports made, no media attention, no photographs.

Numerous times, I was silently grateful that there was no necessity to draw our weapons or handcuffs. We are relieved that there was indeed no necessity for any of that because crimes were prevented, chaos de-escalated, and safety and calm restored. All that was left to show were the stories we shared with our teammates who understood the satisfaction, achievement, and fulfillment that we experienced from a job well done. To me, that is a full score in my imaginary performance index. So, nothing happened – nothing could because we were there.

Immeasurable qualities with profound impact

Embodying integrity is crucial as it reinforces the trust the community places in us and ensures our actions contribute positively, whether noticed or not. It is tough and, from personal experience, sometimes it feels like an uphill battle, striving to maintain these standards in an environment that can often be thankless and challenging.

In current times, it almost tells us that what we show has become more significant than what we do not. What can be seen and measured almost overshadows the unquantifiable aspects of policing – like compassion, empathy, and the commitment to serve the community, protect people and property, and prevent crimes. Yet, it is these immeasurable qualities that often have the most profound impact – people feel safe, and the fear of crime is kept low, improving the quality of life for everyone.

What is not reported in the news

For every incident of misconduct that makes the news, there is a chance that others may have gone unnoticed. At the same time, there are likely far more incidents of crimes prevented, and issues averted that rarely, if ever, make it to the news. Naturally, these are uncountable, even though they count. Over the years, I have seen police officers go above and beyond their duty without any recognition or fanfare. These officers quietly make sacrifices, demonstrate integrity, and continue to serve with dedication, often without any acknowledgement or reward.

This is no different for volunteer police officers. They join the force not expecting accolades or acknowledgement but out of a genuine desire to contribute to our community's safety and well-being. Our motivation stems from a sense of duty and a belief in the values of justice and service. While the spotlight rarely shines on the quiet, everyday acts of heroism and integrity, these are the moments that truly define our role and purpose within the police force. We love the uniform too, of course.

One act of kindness at a time

As volunteer officers, we struggle to answer questions from our close friends and family if what we do is "worth it". What is the purpose of volunteering in a job that is rewarding at best, and life-threatening at worst? I have been asked this question most frequently. Our successes are obviously not obvious. Uncountable mostly. But they are to us, more so as volunteers. Due to the sensitive nature of our work concerning national security and privacy, many of the impactful stories we experience are kept within the station walls.

The challenges police officers face are real, from navigating the complexities of law enforcement to dealing with public perception and the internal struggle to always do what is fair for all. Despite these hurdles, our commitment remains unwavering. We stand as a testament to the resilience and steadfastness that underpin the spirit of serving, driven by a mission to make a positive difference – one act of kindness, one act of prevention at a time.

In the end, our work as volunteer police officers is not measured by the cases we solve or the recognition we receive but by the lives we touch and the peace we help to uphold. We do not keep count – alas, some are just uncountable. As we continue to serve, we carry with us the silent oath of integrity, a promise to ourselves and our community that, regardless of the challenges, we will remain true to our values and our commitment to serve with honour and dignity.

While Police Day reminds us of our pledge and the path we have chosen, let it also be a call to remember and appreciate the unseen efforts and quiet sacrifices of all police officers who, day in and day out, contribute to our nation's safety, peace and order.

An enduring legacy

On our 217th anniversary today, we honour the shared journey of all Royal Malaysia Police officers, celebrating the unity and resilience that have been our strength under the noble blue ensign. Our flag, Sang Saka Biru, stands as a symbol of our shared values, a reminder of the pledge we all took to serve with honesty and dedication. This significant day reflects not just our individual roles but the enduring legacy of dedication and integrity that has defined our force over the centuries.

Today, as our flag is raised while we stand at attention at the Police Day celebrations, it serves as a poignant reminder of the long-standing values we uphold and the quiet yet impactful contributions of full-time and volunteer officers. It is a moment to acknowledge the service and sacrifices that have served as a foundation of our force's history. Together, we reaffirm our commitment to serving with honour and upholding the trust and responsibility vested in us by the nation.

It is a day to cherish our shared heritage and recognise the role of every officer in building a safer, just, and harmonious Malaysia. Selamat Hari Polis to all my comrades.

We, officers in the Royal Malaysia Police Volunteer Reserve (Sukarelawan Simpanan Polis Diraja Malaysia) will continue to serve, driven not only by necessity but by our commitment and pride in our duty. We stand ready to contribute, today and always, for the safety and security of our nation. What we do counts.

Assoc Prof Dr Cheah Phaik Kin is a full-time academician in Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar). She has served in the Royal Malaysia Police Volunteer Reserve since 2014.

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