PJ’s top cop: A man of the people


Petaling Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Nik Ezanee Mohd Faisal took over the district just before Covid-19 hit Malaysia. — FAIHAN GHANI/The Star

He took over as the OCPD overseeing Petaling Jaya (PJ), Selangor, in February 2020 and since then, Asst Comm Nik Ezanee Mohd Faisal, 44, has been making his mark in the district, solving crime while forging connections with the people. He speaks to Sunday Star about helming PJ in the midst of Covid-19 and shares about his most painful duty: weeding out “traitors” in his force.

> What has the journey been like so far for you?

It has been challenging being in one of the most complex districts in Malaysia. I also went through a lot of new experiences with Covid-19 and the movement control order (MCO) – and the journey continues.

I am looking for ways to better our service, provide all we can to the community in PJ.

> What was your reaction when you first heard about your posting?

Omg, Petaling Jaya of all places (laughs)! Yes, I was anxious, scared, it’s a big responsibility, I even doubted myself at times, wondering if I can carry out my new duties well... but you just have to do it.

I did some preparation and homework on what’s going on on the ground, concerns of the community, what are the major issues going on, then eventually I just stepped in and began taking it one day at a time.

I’ve stayed with what has been done by great leaders of the past. I think I have worked with three IGPs (Inspector-Generals of Police), including the present one, and I’ve been in touch with some of the former IGPs, top brass, they have their stories of how they did things, how they managed the discipline of their men, how they served the public, how they gained the trust of the people, so I just implement those ideas, refreshed for today.

> What is the most challenging aspect of you job in PJ?

It’s to arrest traitors within my organisation. To take such action, that’s the most challenging part for me.

I cannot speak for everyone else. I love my people, they sacrifice as much as any cop in Malaysia, but I do not tolerate corruption. It gives me no pleasure to take action against them but if they break the law, I will do it at any time, any day.

> How do you weed out these bad apples?

Leading by example. I always remind my men that I live by certain rules, certain principles, certain standards. I do not speak A and do B, I mean what I say, I walk the talk. Follow me. I can do it, so can you.

So that’s what I keep reminding them. It’s doable if you live within your means.

> What was your first order of business when you took office?

Housekeeping. Before you can clean up your area, you have to get your own house in order, so I came with a list of things I expect my staff to do. No shortcuts. Success does not come overnight, you have to take the long way to do it right.

Integrity, we must not just talk about being clean, we must also be seen as being clean. Do not give any chance for people to criticise.

Communication with the public, I introduced a one good deed a day campaign. I believe if you commit yourself to doing one good thing a day, then eventually it will affect people around you. It doesn’t have to be only among the public, do it even with your peers, you see your peers doing something, offer help. Finish together. It creates positive vibes.

> How do you think your people are responding to your brand of housekeeping?

At first it was hard for them. Nobody likes change, it’s just hard. Being human, you rather go through your days, weeks, years with minor changes – drastic change is just hard.

But this is PJ, I got no choice. You just got to be constantly reminding them, be there checking, being with them on the ground. Within three to four months they started following.

> How has Covid-19 affected policing?

There has been a drop in crime, the MCO contributed to that because people were just not going out. We broadened our perspectives, scaled down crime prevention and focused on roadblocks, limiting movements.

After Hari Raya and the recovery MCO, we saw people going out again, but people are hurting financially so we have to jump back into crime prevention. We set up teams to do two jobs, focus on Covid-19 and crime prevention.

The SOP is there, and sometimes with masks, they limit communication, that’s why you see us not wearing masks sometimes – it’s very important we communicate well with the public.

There was roughly an 18% drop in crime that can be attributed that to those first three months under the MCO.

> How are people in PJ reacting to the new OCPD?

I have been getting a lot of support from the community, from North PJ, Sri Damansara to South Medan and (Taman) Dato Harun. I’m overwhelmed, I can never thank them enough for giving their trust to me.

My phone number is everywhere, I get a lot of calls, some support, some concerns, and we address that and never do things halfway, you want to do it right, that’s how you get the trust of the people.

> In this era of digitalisation, how is technology affecting policing in PJ?

It can work for or against you. Let me give you an example of “viral” cases. Yes, when something goes viral, we have teams according to departments – traffic, CID (Criminal Investigation Department) – that will work on it so we can address Netizens through our FB (Facebook) account and partners in the media.

The most important thing is to get the information right. We don’t want to rush in and give the info and then find out we have given the wrong info. That’s very dangerous.

Digital media can work for us, we have our own Facebook page – when I started here we had 10,000 followers, today we have 114,000. And what we do is we share info on current security situations, post alerts about scams, we inform the public about arrests made. We also share what we do, like community visits, engagements. We use that to our advantage, it’s how we communicate with the PJ community.

We have to be careful with social media because people do share their concerns and complaints there and we have to tackle that very carefully.

We had a case a couple of months back when the owner of a house that had been broken into identified a neighbour as a suspect. We investigated, charged the suspect, who then got out on bail. When he was seen out the next day, there was some concern and the house owner wrote something on Facebook that went viral.

I took three days before I responded because there were a lot of threads to this incident. Info was given to us that was not true so I could have made a case of it but, instead, we took a different approach, we spoke to the house owner, explained what due process is, we went to her house, saw her neighbours, I gave her my phone number, told her if she feels unsafe at any time to call me. The police station chief was there also and gave his number to her. And until today, I can say we are friends.

When dealing with the public we have to use wisdom.

> How important is rapport with the people?

It’s very important because we serve the people. We were given this uniform to become their guardians, their protectors.

If I do not serve them well, if I do not engage them, if they do not trust me, if I cannot build that trust between police and community, it won’t work. Then you’ll see a lot of hate for the uniform.

And building trust takes time. It’s through your daily actions, rent is due every hour, every minute. You have to be serious about what you do.

> How do you juggle work and family?

In our line of work, family more often then not comes second – I hate to say this but it’s a fact. I can never thank my wife and son enough for their support, despite me not being home like regular husbands and fathers. That’s the life we chose.

> Would you want your son to follow in your footsteps?

I wouldn’t want my son to go through the hardships I did. For someone I love, I would not want him to go through what I’m going through.

> What made you want to become a policeman?

I wanted to make changes. Prior to becoming a policeman, the company had been under fire, so during my first interview, when the board asked me why I wanted to become a policeman, I told them that instead of complaining from the outside, I might as well join in and do something about it. And I got the job.

> We have noticed that you visit a lot of police retirees. Why is that?

To show appreciation, as they have served and I believe they have served well. The knowledge, wisdom they have is remarkable.

I sat with (former Bukit Aman CID director) Tan Sri Ismail Che Rus for three hours and the stories that came out of that, the things you learn from his experiences, they’re priceless. In our business it’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes. Mistakes we make can cost lives or could be very expensive.

Another reason why is that they live around PJ. In their neighbourhood if the people have questions about the police or security, they don’t know who to ask and nobody likes to go to a police station unless they have to, so they go to the retirees. So if I approach the retirees, they can bridge the gap. It works.

> Who would you say is the most interesting character among the retired cops you have visited?

(Former Kuala Lumpur police chief) Datuk Dell Akhbar Khan, he was very interesting, he was telling me how it was done back in the day, good and bad, so I take the good things.

> How many retired policemen are there in PJ?

According to our records there are 254 officers and personnel. We have a Sub-Inspector to keep updating our records, he coordinates.

We sent out letters to these retired cops with my number in case they need assistance. Part of the perks of their service is that they can come to my office, no appointment needed, and can jump queue any time.

> How do you hope to improve the integrity of PJ police?

My first case, the infamous police rape case involving the Mongolian women (“Police inspector at MCO roadblock allegedly abducted and raped two Mongolian women”) – the media found out and I addressed it without covering up anything. I said that an investigation would be carried out regardless of what the women were there for. We investigated, the person was charged.

I made it clear to my people. If you do a crime, there will be investigations, there will be no cover up. Just because you wear a uniform it doesn’t mean you can get away scot-free with any wrong doings. You break the law, you do the time.

No more amaran (warning), if there is a disciplinary breach we will take disciplinary action, you break the law we will investigate from the criminal side. It’s time to be serious. There is no time better than now.

> Do you have any advice for your men and women?

We have taken an oath, we chose this life, nobody put a gun to our head and said, hey, be a cop. We chose this, live by it.

Ask yourself have you given the community, the people you have sworn to protect, your best? If you feel like you haven’t, wake up the next morning and do your best. That’s all. You cannot go wrong with that.

But if you start dragging your feet when you have to go into the office, then leave. Because that’s when you start to make excuses and do things you shouldn’t do.

> What are your policing goals for PJ?

I’ve seen it, it’s happening now, the people here welcome the police. I’ve done my beat, houses, businesses that I visit, I’m always greeted with a smile. It’s a very beautiful feeling for a cop.

What I worry about is PJ will lose that if it’s not continued. I keep reminding my heads of departments and station chiefs to keep at it.

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