INDONESIA: The deadly cost of poor policing
Jakarta/Brussels, 16 February 2012: Despite years of investment in community policing, the Indonesian police remain deeply distrusted by the people they are supposed to serve.
Indonesia: The Deadly Cost of Poor Policing, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, says that the high frequency of angry crowd attacks on police and police stations is a direct response to abuse, real and perceived, by police and the absence of any functioning grievance mechanism.
“The cure is not more pilot projects in community policing but systematic reform in recruitment and training, use of force and handling of firearms, and above all, accountability”, says Achmad Sukarsono, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Analyst. “Police are supposed to be helping prevent conflict, but too often they are contributing to its outbreak”.
The report looks at how the concept of community policing evolved in democratic Indonesia and the obstacles it faces from police institutional culture, incentive structure and corruption. Out of at least 40 attacks on police since August 2010, the report examines three cases:
- In Buol, Central Sulawesi, citizens destroyed police facilities and forced police families to leave town after seven men were shot dead during a mass protest against the death of a teenager in police custody. This is one of the few cases where several of the officers were brought to court, but only because of the high death toll and media attention.
- In Kampar, Riau, residents vandalised a precinct after the arrest and beating of an innocent clan elder at a market. He was accused of illegal gambling because he was jotting numbers on a piece of paper, when in fact he was noting product prices. Trivial arrests like this frequently occur because police are rewarded for favourable crime statistics, and the more arrests they make, regardless of the severity of the crime, the better they are seen to be doing their job.
- In Bantaeng, South Sulawesi, villagers attacked a precinct after a deadly police raid on alleged gamblers at a wedding party that killed one, although it happened in a different district. Police claim they opened fire because they believed anger among the wedding guests over the gambling arrests put their commander’s life in danger. In fact, they seem to have shot wildly in the dark without being able to see what they were shooting at.
“These incidents are emblematic of a much broader problem; the Indonesian government should stop treating them as isolated incidents”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director. “They represent a systemic failure that will encourage further deadly violence unless the underlying causes of community hostility are addressed”.