DATUK Seri Abdul Hamid Bador has a mission and vision to rebuild the police force and regain the public's trust in the men and women in blue – all 135,000 of them.
And part of that effort means taking the proposed Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) seriously.
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) spoke to The Star about the importance of the IPCMC, and other issues facing the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM).
Q: Since your appointment as the IGP, you have prioritised the aspect of integrity among your personnel. Your predecessors have uttered such a mantra before; so what is different with yours?
A: Each and every one of them (my predecessors), I believe, had their own plans but along the way, this got watered down due to the urgency of certain events. Perhaps combating crime became a priority.
But my approach from the very beginning is that in policing, the most basic necessity is the question of integrity. This must come first. I will instil the feeling of guilt among my men if they take bribes and to educate and empower them with the help of the government, such as getting better salaries.
However, without the guidance or prodding from the (police) leadership, they could still be at risk of deviating from the right path.
That is why when I said I will focus on improving on integrity, I will try to walk the talk. I’ll do just that ... that is very important, for without that, whatever mission or vision will surely falter. Integrity must come first.
Q: You have warned your men to sever their ties with the underworld. In your assessment, is such involvement prevalent?
A: There was a lot of talk about this. In my three years of absence from the force, I was able to mix with the public and it is common to see them fearing the police. But it is wrong for them to fear the police as though we are the “Gestapo”. There were a lot of accusations against the police for misuse of power.
These are facts I gathered from the public, and whether it was just perception or otherwise, I take it at face value that it is true, without any malice against my predecessors, I intend to improve (the force) and focus all my energy on that goal. I’ll do just that.
Q: You have made impromptu visits to various police stations to meet your men. Is this part of the effort to improve integrity among them?
A: That is right. I don’t want an artificial type of reception to receive me. I just want to walk in and see for myself their true state ... not a “decorated” one. I will engage in small talk with them to gauge their true feelings, without the fear of annoying their superiors.
That is how I get to the bottom of things. In other words, I’m cutting the bureaucratic tape by going straight to the men on the ground.
Q: How vital is the IPCMC to your mission?
A: It is vital. From day one, when it was first mooted in 2004 or 2005, I told myself this is the one thing we needed to check ourselves. It is an authority to check upon us. We don’t want to be “hantu raya tak bertuan (free to do anything)” ... that is bad for the country.
I’m not insinuating that things were bad but it is an opportunity for us to redeem ourselves with the help of the government. It will be a win-win situation where the people will get what they deserve from the police and the police will feel they are well taken care of by the government.
This will surely benefit the country. It is an opportunity for us to present our case to the government and the government will present its case to us, where they will may demand that the police will be like this or that, stop this or that, or make improvements.
At the same time, we can tell the government: you want us to do this, please provide us with all this. We can’t do things without being properly equipped, for instance.
We can look at it as a win-win situation, so we don’t want the police to be the “master” of this country. People have been quietly talking about the police being so powerful that they can do wonders, such as pinning nasty things on someone without any check and balance.
I don’t want that kind of atmosphere to prevail during my tenure. I will serve the people. The government will take care of us and at the same time, I want my men to deliver and the public to respect the police instead of fearing us.
Q: Since it was first mooted, the IPCMC has met with opposition from many quarters, including police associations and former officers. They fear the commission will diminish the authority of the police. What are your thoughts on this?
A: (Their fears are) unfounded. It is based on disinformation created by those with vested interests. These same people think that the police are untouchable.
This is wrong. To me, we are like any other (enforcement agency). The only special thing about us is that we have been vested with a lot of power. There is a risk and danger when being given such immense power. There is a likelihood that it will be misused. If this goes unchecked, we will then have a police state.
We don’t want that kind of atmosphere where the people fear the police. This will tarnish our image. We are supposed to become a developed country. We are a country that clicks, everything moves merrily and harmoniously. A plural society that clicks well. Malaysia is a very good example for others to emulate and follow.
Q: When do you expect the IPCMC to be formed?
A: I think Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed from the National Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption Centre (GIACC) is working on it. I don't have a timeframe for this. To me, the sooner the better.
I will inform my men about the benefits of IPCMC. I will put a stop to the misconception created by certain quarters.
What I'm doing now is to get first-hand information on the state of welfare of police personnel on the ground through my impromptu visits. I plan to meet all the respective departments at the Bukit Aman level during the Syawal month (after Hari Raya).
After that, I will go to the ground. Meanwhile, I will issue a directive from time to time, informing and educating my men on the IPCMC.
To me, misinformation is very irresponsible. I think the one-liner from Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is enough to sum up the whole thing: if you don’t commit any offence, why fear the IPCMC.
As I said, there is a certain selfish feeling among certain former officers that we must safeguard the name and image of the police according to their mould, which is outdated to me.
Those days we used typewriters, now we just click with a finger and news will travel very fast. Public opinion can be formed within minutes or hours, unlike those days when you got to hold rallies.
I sincerely believe the IPCMC is good, and an opportunity to get what the force deserves.
To the ones spreading misinformation, just stop it. Don’t be selfish. You had your time, and just ask yourselves: what did you do to improve the police image at that time? Were you part of the corrupt system?
So, just take a few seconds and ask God, “Have I done my part, why am I so selfish that my views are the truthful and holiest one?”
The government does not mean any harm in forming IPCMC. It is not political, it is what is required of us.
Q: Recently, Dr Mahathir said the government will consider your request to increase the salary of lower rank personnel. It seems the government is listening and attuned to the welfare of the force.
A: Alhamdulillah, I whispered to Tun (Dr Mahathir) when I told him the plight of my men.
I said, “Sir, I interviewed one of my men who lived outside the station. He has to rent a house, fork out of his own pocket money for his monthly rental, but he has three kids and his spouse is a housewife. There is only RM1,400 left in his pocket for the whole month. Please, these are facts, these are not tales created by me”.
Tun nodded. When he did that, I knew good things would come.
Q: On efforts to clean up the force, what are the actions that will be taken against the bad apples?
A: I regard everyone as white cloth. I don’t like looking back on what happened previously. What I want them to do before it’s too late is sever their ties with the underworld, such as vice syndicates.
We don’t have to stoop so low to get intelligence. We have other means to gather details using technology. They don’t have to mix and get entangled with the dirty culture. Stop it and you are my men. No such thing as one foot on this side and another on the other side.
We have to make it very clear that it is wrong to have such ties.
I’m giving them a fair chance, I’m not here to be vindictive to settle old scores. I’ll see and give them until Merdeka Day (Aug 31)? Three months is enough. I will be very happy if this comes true. The government and country will gain from a clean police force.
Q: What are your thoughts on the threat of the Islamic State?
A: At the moment, we are still considered at par with them. We cannot afford any lapses in our actions in monitoring them.
However, you can talk about 1,000 major successes, but if you fail once, then that is it.
I think E8 (the Counter Terrorism Division) has excellent commanders and experienced men and women to handle this. I am satisfied with them. I only need them to keep up their vigilance.
They are actually ready for battle in terms of equipment and other means. I encouraged them to move freely without any red tape. I want them to have high mobility and to act fast, almost complete freedom – but they do report to me daily or weekly. They talk to me almost every day.
If there are bad apples among them, I don't feel sorry for them – if they commit a crime, they will be subjected to stern action.
In fact, I feel there should be harsher punishments for them as they are the men in blue.
Q. How about the fears of bringing back the militants and their family back from Syria?
A: We have met Wisma Putra and our foreign intelligence partners from that region. We are getting advice from various partners such as the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. We learn the experiences of other countries in dealing with such an issue.
With this knowledge, we are charting our actions. Sure, we have to bring them back, but they have to face the law. We have intelligence on their conduct over there, so they have to be dealt with within Malaysian laws. They would be screened thoroughly.
There are also women and children and as such, they will be treated on a case by case basis.
Instead of them returning through illegal ways, why don't we facilitate their return to enable us to rehabilitate and win their hearts back?
Rehab is costly, time-consuming and energy-sapping, but it has to be done. I will continue to empower E8 officers for this job.
Q. What are your thoughts on Pastor Raymond Koh and social activist Amri Che Ma's disappearances?
A: It has been decided by the Prime Minister that a special team be set up to investigate the claims made by Suhakam (the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia). That is what the government has decided and I welcome this. Let the special investigation team carry out the necessary probe.
Q: How close are the police in bringing back fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low?
A: This has been brewing for the past four years. A little bit of patience is required. We are working hard on this, as justice will not be completely served without them facing the judicial processes.
All five or six fugitives (implicated in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal) must be brought back.
They cannot run ... or how long can they hide? Come back and face the charges. I will provide the security to ensure their safety when they return.
And yes, we know where Jho Low is.
Q: What is your message to the people on the police force under your watch?
A: I will waste no time and energy. I have 600-plus days left to achieve this, to fulfil government directives and put the police force back in a deserving position.
I want all my men to toe the line to bring dignity and integrity back to the force.
I will not waste any time in putting the police back on the right track, minimising any wrongdoings committed by policemen, and tightening discipline to allow them to serve and protect the people.