IN my endeavours to help the police reduce crime and bring about a safer community, I had the opportunity to work with all previous inspectors-general of police, or IGPs, starting from the days of Tun Mohamed Hanif Omar and their officers.
Although I am no longer an elected representative, there are still those from the force who share their views and highlight the challenges they are facing, including the concern on the high cost of living and the condition of police quarters.
Like other Malaysians, the men and women in blue are also seriously affected by the increasing cost of living, especially in urban areas.
We should never accept that as an excuse to take bribes, but it is a known fact that some police personnel have been involved in corruption due to financial problems.
It is tough for low-ranking police personnel, who earn slightly more than RM1,000 a month, under a salary scale of between RM1,014 and RM3,517 for a constable, to survive in big cities like Kuala Lumpur.
Those who did not get police quarters have no other option but to fork out almost half of their salary to rent a room or small house in a big city.
Those who cannot afford it have to share a cramped house or room, or look for cheaper alternatives on the outskirts.
I, therefore, fully support the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) recommendation that the government
seriously review the wage and welfare issues of members and officers of enforcement agencies in the country, especially the police.
MACC chief Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad was reported to have said this could help prevent members and officers of the enforcement agencies from succumbing to bribery and abuse of power.
A salary hike may not totally wipe out corruption in the police force and other law enforcement agencies, but it could help reduce the temptation to receive bribes.
Tighter monitoring of the police force, as proposed by Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) president Datuk Akhbar Satar, should also be able to prevent corruption.
The monitoring body should look out for red flags, such as police personnel living beyond their means.
The many tasks of the new IGP, Datuk Seri Mohamad Fuzi Harun, should include ways to improve the welfare of his men and
women, including providing better allowances and accommodation.
Although most of the police quarters have been upgraded and new ones are being built with better features and facilities, there are still those which need to be refurbished, particularly those which have been occupied for years and are in poor condition.
We must uplift the morale of police personnel who are willing to risk their lives in order to maintain safety and security.
I am confident that Fuzi is fully aware of this issue, as he has been serving the police since 1984.
Besides that, the new IGP must also focus on strengthening the police force and increasing public confidence in the country’s security.
The police have to address negative public perceptions, as they have managed to reduce 47 per cent of the crime index since the transformation programme was implemented in 2008.
To help dispel negative perceptions, the police must interact more with the community, non-governmental organisations and the private sector.
The police need to be sensitive to public perception and must do everything possible within their jurisdiction to help strengthen the people’s confidence in the police force.
I believe Fuzi’s tremendous experience from leading the Special Branch will help him meet the ever increasing demands of the public, including dealing with terror threats, especially from groups such as Islamic State.
The people have high expectations of Fuzi, but let’s be fair and give him time to sort things out.
While it is important for the new IGP and his team to improve the force, all of us must also do our part.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE