Public don't trust Indonesian police, force needs revamp, says expert


A police observer has expressed concern over recent viral videos showing confrontations between police officers and civilians, recommending that the police encourage their field officers to improve their public service and image.

"Nowadays, the public have easier access and means - like mobile-phones and videos - to monitor and criticise the police's service in the field," said Bambang Widodo Umar of the University of Indonesia. "Police officers can no longer act arbitrarily, for example by exerting physical force, when enforcing the law."

Earlier this month, a video went viral on social media showing a traffic police officer intimidating an ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver by cornering and pushing him up against a police truck, as well as slapping his face.

In March, the police also came under fire after a social media video showed a traffic police officer reproving a Transjakarta bus driver to the chagrin of passengers, who vocally noted the injustice of the reprimand.

According to Bambang, the videos are evidence of a lack of public-service ethos among officers.

As law enforcers and civil protectors, he said, the police should instill security and trust among the public, instead of fear and anger, the emotions most in evidence in the two videos.

The police should take steps to improve their service and build good relations with the public, he went on, warning that doing so would require sincere commitment at all levels of the police, from chiefs to field officers.

Bambang suggested that the police start to engage their field officers, for example the traffic police, in training to improve their service, as such officers acted as the front-line of the institution, dealing directly and daily with the public.

The police should not, moreover, charge those who uploaded videos implicitly or explicitly critical of police to social media with hate speech, he added, describing such measures as "antidemocratic".

Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian concurred with Bambang, noting that viral videos were covered by freedom of expression and served to demonstrate areas where the police needed to improve.

The police, he said, should indeed thank netizens responsible for footage showing police misdeeds, as such videos were evidence both of police failings and public exasperation with those failings.

"We [the police] belong to the public, and the public has the right to monitor and criticise us," Tito said, adding that the National Police had taken action against officers identified in the videos.

Separately, Yuliardi, 48, an ojek driver operating at Palmerah station in Central Jakarta, said he deplored the physical violence used by officers in the videos, adding that such actions could only tarnish the police's image and destroy people's trust in officers' ability to protect them.

"Most people, me included, have little faith in the police - they're seen as arrogant. In light of the incidents shown in the videos, I reckon there'll be even less public trust in them," Yuliardi said. "I hope the police will realise that and take action to ameliorate their image."