Police set up unit to probe custodial death cases

KUALA LUMPUR: Any deaths in police custody from next year will be probed by a new unit set up under the Bukit Aman Integrity and Standards Compliance Department.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin (pic) said the Death in Custody Investigations Unit would begin investigating any deaths in police custody from Jan 1.

"The decision to set up this unit was made following a number of complaints about deaths in custody.

"The unit would be headed by a police superintendent and consist of 12 personnel and one civilian officer," he told reporters after announcing the enhancement of General Operations Force (GOF) posts' capabilities on Monday (Dec 6).

He said the decision to implement this unit was made to show that the government was concerned about the issue, which has frequently been raised by the rakyat.

"We agreed that this would also enhance the image and integrity of the police force.

"The unit would focus on conducting transparent criminal investigation, standard operating procedure compliance, and identify elements of negligence," he said, adding that he had also informed Parliament that deaths in custody and lockups were not race-related.

He said from 2015 to this year a total of 42 Malays, 15 Indians and 13 Chinese had died in lockups.

"These statistics show that there is no element of race involved.

"A number of cases occurred due to unavoidable factors such as prior illness," he said.

Meanwhile, Hamzah said his ministry was holding discussions with the Finance Ministry to appoint panel doctors to enable any ailing individual detained by the police to be referred immediately to a private clinic.

“If we follow the existing SOP we have to wait for a doctor or medical officer to be sent by the Health Ministry, which will take a long time.

“If the services of a panel doctor are allowed then detainees can be immediately referred for screening to find out their current health status before being taken to the lockup," he said.

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