Sunday Star sits down with top cop Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador to find out how the Royal Malaysia Police has progressed and what challenges our cops faced in the year that he has been in charge.
> What are your thoughts on the Integrity and Standards Compliance Department (JIPS)?
Lately it has improved in strides. The officers have gone to the ground to conduct spot checks and actions were taken against police personnel who were negligent or involved in misdemeanours.
There were lots of cases but at the same time, the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) has also taken action against some police personnel.
> Do such actions tarnish the image of the police force?
Far from it. My stand as a IGP is if wrongdoings occur outside of my knowledge, then by all means, the MACC should take action. No one will be protected and I will not appeal or plead with the MACC not to take action. The bad apples within the police force will not be protected.
I don’t want PDRM to be stuck in a cocoon where no action can be taken against it. I aim to strip the perception that the police are invisible, cannot be touched or can do anything they wanted. I won’t allow wrongdoings to thrive.
> You were appointed IGP on May 4 in 2019. How have you strengthened PDRM’s integrity?
One of the things I realised is there is a huge number of police personnel who are honest, have high integrity and the spirit to do the work to the best of their abilities. This is the bunch that I want to motivate and to give fresh impetus for them to be brave and fulfil their responsibilities without fear or favour.
I know in the past there were stories of honest personnel being pressured by the crooked ones and even isolated. No more under my watch.
> How integral is JIPS to your goal?
I have high hopes for JIPS to take the necessary actions and to empower those who are good and honest. Furthermore, I am thankful to the government for approving 400 new penjawatan (positions) for the department. It shows the government is with us in improving the force, especially on the aspect of integrity. The government has also agreed to upgrade certain critical (JIPS) posts in states, at least Supt (superintendent) or ACP (assistant commissioner of police) now.
Now the challenge is to fill the additional posts. Not because it is hard to find those who are clean but the force has many vacancies yet to be filled in other areas as well. However, we will work towards it.
My ultimate goal for JIPS is for it to be really independent, capable of policing the police. If possible, I want to lessen arrests of my men by outside agencies, instead we should arrest our own, those who have gone on the wrong path.
Personally, I feel its about time the police admit that there are things that are wrong with the force. Some unhealthy cultures should be eradicated.
My vow from when I was first appointed IGP remains the same, to improve and strengthen the police force. I want to regain and increase public confidence in the men and women in blue. Thankfully, I have a very good deputy IGP, 10 excellent department directors. I feel the whole force is with me.
> A concerning issue of late is that of drink driving. Your thoughts on it?
I issued a statement on the matter, especially on injuries and death of JSPT (Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department) personnel because of drunk drivers. I hope for more drastic and firm laws against those who are stubborn and cause hardships to others. I am pushing for a mandatory jail sentence for drunk drivers. I hope for a strong deterrent.
At the same time, the community must play its part too. Pub owners or friends of those who drink alcoholic beverages should advice them, “If you drink, get a ride from an e-hailing service to go home”. If they are stubborn and selfish, they will face the full brunt of the law.
I hope a new, stricter law on the matter will be passed in Parliament soon. A heavier sentence will give more empowerment to JSPT personnel.
> Will the JSPT be equipped with better tools to curb drink driving?
We have raised the matter with the Home Ministry. I expect JSPT to get better equipment, including new breathalysers to detect blood alcohol levels. The new tool will produce better results faster – it is the same as those used in developed countries. I hope sufficient numbers of this new tool will be supplied to JSPT personnel nationwide.
I am proud of JSPT personnel, especially those who have showed exemplary service. For example, those who helped members of the public above the call of duty, from helping the elderly to cross roads, fixing flat tires and pushing stalled cars to those who rescued a dog and especially those who have been hit by a vehicle. I salute them for honouring the duty entrusted to them and for showing compassion.
Recently, I met with JSPT staff officers and had a heart to heart talk about the challenges they face. We talked about issues like illegal racing, mat lajak (youngsters who race modified bicycles on public roads) and those who modify motorcycles. I instructed them to study the issues thoroughly so that a massive operation can be conducted nationwide continuously to raise more awareness about them in society.
For illegal racing, I feel we should go after the organisers, not just the racers. Tougher action against the culprits, such as using the Prevention of Crime Act (Poca) should be explored. Action should also be taken against owners of shops that modify the motorcycles.
> The Narcotics Crime Investigation Department (NCID) has made good headway in the war against illicit drugs in the country in recent years. What is your opinion of the department?
After more than a year as IGP, there have been lots of bittersweet moments. The bitter ones would definitely be when my men are detained for corruption, drug abuse or even criminal activities. However, the sweet moments have overshadowed the bad ones through various successes, such as the NCID’s against drug syndicates.
I know there has been negative talk and stigma about the department in the past, including talk that the department is “where the money is” and that’s why personnel preferred to be transferred to NCID compared with CID’s D7 as NCID is the gateway to fast cash through various means, like colluding with drug syndicates and pushers.
Thankfully, the new director (Comm Datuk Ramli Din) is adamant about improving the department. For example, certain inefficient personnel and officers have been reprimanded and replaced.
As the drug menace is the number one enemy of the country, as IGP, I am giving the NCID director support and encouragement to take necessary actions to “free” the department of its negative image of being corrupt.
> In what areas can the NCID improve?
The NCID faces a few handicaps, including not having a central headquarters. We have raised the matter with the government so that a suitable location can be identified. Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin will find the best solution for the matter.
However, such constraints have not hampered the work done by NCID personnel. The department has scored major successes in recent years. One of its areas of focus now is to curb the addiction to ketum water, especially among civil servants. We will go all out on the matter.
> What are your plans for the Criminal Investigation Department (CID)?
To curb crime, the officers themselves must be clean. That is why from the beginning, I told my men to cut any connections with criminals... from illegal gambling bosses to those behind vice rings.
I always remind them to live moderately and that there is no need for them to go “enjoy” themselves at entertainment outlets or karaoke centres. The order that prohibits all police personnel and officers from going to such outlets still stands. It is not a “lepas batuk ditangga” (not serious) directive, I am so serious about this. When you practice a moderate lifestyle, there are fewer things that can tempt you from straying from the right path or spending beyond your means.
In Bukit Aman, we walk the talk. For example, we have done away with fancy internal functions and events.
Stern actions have been taken against the bad apples in the force, including in CID. When relationships with criminals are ended, it will make taking action against criminals easier and more effective.
> What is the CID doing about illegal gambling?
The CID has gone all out to curb the activity and gone after thousands of gambling dens nationwide. As a result, I know a lot of the gambling bosses are not happy with me and they started rumours that I might be replaced and there are even those who claim that I can be bought. In all honestly, I don’t need riches.
These so-called businessmen should conduct legitimate businesses instead of resorting to illegal gambling. This illegal business has claimed victims from all walks of life – police personnel, soldiers, teachers, firemen, all their lives ruined due to a gambling addiction.
This is not a Hollywood script, I am sincere and passionate about curbing illegal gambling as it has negative implications for society as a whole.
I always remind my men that if they are involved in gambling syndicates, they are not only ruining their lives but the lives of others as well.
> Is the CID moving in the right direction?
Alhamdulillah, the CID director (Comm Datuk Huzir Mohamed) is so energetic! If before CID’s D7 (the Anti-Vice, Gambling and Secret Societies Division) was said to be a place to “make money”, now it has overcome that stigma and gone all out continuously – it’s not just lip service. However, I have reminded them to ensure that those who are detained in operations are prosecuted as well.
At the moment, I am happy things are moving towards the better side of things. I know I cannot achieve certain KPIs within this time frame but what I can do is get the momentum going and ensure it is not something temporary.
I want this practice to become a new culture within PDRM so that police personnel are afraid to take bribes and instead they are brave about making the right decisions without repercussions.
> What other areas is the CID focusing on?
Another area of focus is the issue of gangsterism – be it Malay, Indian or Chinese gangs. Regardless of race, we are going all out against gangs. I cannot allow gangsters to be the masters of this country. We have to stop gangsters who have threatened businesses by various means, including extorting protection money.
Clashes between different gangs are also a serious problem. I hope the government understands the importance and urgency of the actions taken by the PDRM in curbing the threat of gangsterism by using stern laws such as Poca.
I will ensure that actions taken by the CID do not have elements of foul play when the gangsters are detained for break the law.
School liaison officers have also been told to cooperate closely with teachers to detect and curb gangsterism in schools.
> You have been vocal about the welfare of the men and women of the police force. What improvements do you have in mind?
I am frequently in contact with the Home Ministry’s secretary-general about various issues, especially the issue of police barracks, so that he understands the situation for police personnel on the ground. I am thankful that allocations to improve existing barracks and build new ones have been approved by the government.
I am deeply concerned about their living conditions. For example, a police personnel is either given quarters or a RM260 housing allowance based on his contract of service. In PDRM, it is most important for personnel to live in the district they are assigned to and in barracks so in case of any emergency, they can look out for each other. If they have to rent a place 20km from their place of work as it is the only place that fits the allowance, then I feel it is not suitable.
I will continue to go to the ground and check conditions of police barracks as well as request for immediate funds for repairs and maintenance. In some barracks, the upper floors cannot be lived in as water cannot reach them. I have instructed that the water flow be fixed as soon as possible.
It is better if the government takes the RM260 and channels it towards improving or building new barracks. When the personnel are comfortable, they will be more at ease in performing their duties, knowing their families are safe.
Whenever there are offers to develop PDRM land, my approach is to prioritise the construction of police barracks rather than other infrastructure such as sports complexes or stadiums.
In Kuala Lumpur, housing for police personnel is not sufficient so efforts to improve existing barracks are ongoing. The average size of a unit is about 800sq f and the Home Ministry has agreed to renovate two units into one, on top of building new housing. I feel the size of units should be at least 1,200sq f.
> Is there a move to rotate personnel more frequently?
I am aware that there are officers and personnel who are stressed out because they have been too long in a state contingent or assigned to work that doesn’t suit them, and even those who have grown stagnant in their post or duties.
However, I also know that there are some who are less responsible ... those who, at the young age of 30, for example, applied to be placed in their own states or hometowns. Thus, I have instructed the Bukit Aman management department to evaluate every application for a transfer.
Due consideration should be given to credible cases, such as taking care of ailing or elderly parents. I will approve such applications on compassionate grounds.
I urge young police personnel to serve to the best of their abilities at any post they are assigned to. Think of that old Malay proverb "tak kenal maka tak cinta" (you'll never know unless you try).
However, there also are those who are adamant about not being transferred or assigned to a specific post, to the extent that they are willing to retire early. If they would rather do so, by all means, go ahead – but don't regret it later. I have received applications from such personnel who then requested to be reinstated later.Unfortunately, government policy dictates that once an application for early retirement is approved, it cannot be rescinded.
> What are your thoughts on the Internal Security and Public Order Department (KDNKA)?
The Marine Police, the General Operations Force (GOF) and the Air Unit are monitoring the nation’s coast line to curb smuggling activities, including contraband cigarettes. The Special Branch has also assisted efforts to catch smugglers.
We have recorded various successes but I am not satisfied as there are still many areas that can be improved.
I am told that the nation lost close to RM5bil in tax revenue due to smuggling activities that occurred via “lorong tikus” (secret routes) along the coastline and even at various ports. The police, especially the KDNKA and units under them, are ever ready to assist the Customs Department in curbing smuggling. It is very fair that we do, as we have the manpower, facilities and equipment. My men on the ground are rejuvenated when, for example, GOF personnel are tasked with hunting smugglers and the mastermind behind such activities with an integrated approach.
On the poaching front, two GOF battalions have been assigned to assist Perhilitan (Wildlife and National Parks Department) to detain poachers and prevent poaching in the nation’s wilderness. Prior to the MCO (movement control order) we used to have monthly meetings with Perhilitan and other relevant agencies – we will review this soon.
I have also proposed that relevant laws are amended to include whipping for those convicted for poaching but some parties objected. My rationale is that such culprits are torturing innocent animals thus they should be met with sufficient punishment. I will continue with this honourable effort to protect the country’s flora and fauna.
> And finally, what message would you like to give Malaysians, sir?
Given the current political climate, I hope all parties will be responsible, especially supporters of political parties, in voicing out political leanings and beliefs. Those who cross the line by making slanderous or seditious statements will be investigated and action will be taken regardless of which party they are from or support and we will be fair to all parties.
My officers and I will continue our efforts to curb corruption, improve the integrity of and further strengthen the police force. Their efforts should also be rewarded, as it goes hand in hand.
During the MCO, 55,000 personnel were deployed nationwide for various duties, including conducting road blocks, and they have worked tirelessly for the people. There were initial shortcomings regarding their allowances but that has been solved.