By See Foon Chan-Koppen
After six months into his current assignment as the Chief Police Officer of Perak, Dato’ Mohd Shukri Dahlan has already made big strides in shaping up policing in the Silver State and with the co-operation and support of the general public, is hoping to drastically reduce crime and make Crime Prevention the number one priority for his police force. Ipoh Echo met up with him recently to seek answers to some of the escalating concerns expressed by members of the public.
The general public as well as NGOs must support Police to make Ipoh crime free
IE: There have been numerous complaints about the lack of police presence especially in crime-prone areas. What are your plans?
DATO’ MOHD: I am aware of this issue. The problem here is one of insufficient manpower. The international standard for policing ratio is 1:250 people. Here in Malaysia, we’re working with a ratio of 1:1,000. The Federal government has plans to increase the police force by 30,000 but recruitment and training are the obstacles to overcome. I have already put in place four strategies for Perak which will help to address the lack of police presence and these are:
I have received clearance from Bukit Aman to deploy members of the Federal Reserve Unit who come to Ipoh every week to boost our numbers. Now more police are being seen in the streets.
Permission has also been granted from the Federal government to increase numbers in the Police Voluntary Reserve. With this, additional funds have been approved as the volunteers are paid an hourly rate. This will also assist our efforts in reaching out to the Chinese and balance our ethnicity ratio in the police force, bringing us more in line with the 1Malaysia concept.
To further optimise our meagre manpower resources, I have made it mandatory for police personnel working in offices to go on active policing three times a week
Crime Prevention is my number one priority and to drive home my vision of a crime free Ipoh, I have been working at changing the mind-set of police personnel throughout the state. It starts with maximising the productivity of the allocated time each police person spends on duty. So let’s take the case of traffic police: when their peak traffic duties are over in the mornings and evenings, they are now tasked with doing crime prevention work by riding their motorbikes through kampongs and crime prone areas so that their presence is visible. Since we started to implement this strategy we are happy to note that no untoward incidents have occurred in the past four months.
IE: Will plans to divide police districts improve policing on the whole?
DATO’ MOHD: It will definitely help. We currently have 24 Balai (police stations) under one OCPD (Officer-in-Charge of Police District). Logistical and ground support are running at bursting capacity. Ipoh is now big enough to divide into two districts with twelve Balai, each under their own chief. Not only will logistical support be doubled but the OCPD can concentrate and focus on more detail and go into more depth on any given problem that arises. And each division will have their own budgets to increase manpower which will effectively double the increase for the whole.
IE: How effective is CCTV presently? Cameras are only found in selected areas such as Polo Ground, Greentown and the City Council complex. What are your plans for the uncovered zones? TV monitors are being manned by MBI staff not police personnel. Is this the norm?
DATO’ MOHD: CCTV is very effective. However they fall under the local authority and decisions for installations are made by them with police suggestions on crime prone areas to be monitored. I personally feel that the monitoring, ideally, should be done by the police as this would hasten the reaction time and police intervention can take place much faster.
IE: Students currently account for a huge portion of the Rakan Cop membership. Public participation seems lukewarm. There are inherent reasons why the general public are reluctant to participate. One reason is incentive. Do you have plans to make Rakan Cop more interesting and attractive?
DATO’ MOHD: Perak has the largest number of Rakan Cop members registered compared to the rest of the country and yet it remains under utilised. I suspect that there is not enough publicity about its benefits and not enough efforts are being made to encourage active participation by its members. We also have the problem of fielding reports from members that stem from self interest rather than for the larger community. I am in the process of conducting a review on Rakan Cop, and we will brainstorm on ways to encourage active participation and developing a community spirit.
IE: The former CPO had introduced a number of programmes aimed at improving police procedures. Are these programmes such as SWAT (Stop, Walk and Talk), high profile policing and mobile patrols still in progress?
DATO’ MOHD: Oh very much so. In fact we’ve stepped it up even further. As mentioned earlier, our traffic police are being deployed for mobile patrolling, and we have increased our high profile policing by making it mandatory for all police cars to flash their beacons. Members of the public, who see a patrol car at night with the beacon not flashing, must assist us by calling in to report.
IE: We see that you have already implemented quite a few changes for the better. What else do you plan for improving policing in general in Perak?
DATO’ MOHD: I believe that we must educate our young and inculcate them against crime. Every school in Perak has one police officer who acts as liaison with the principal. It is imperative for schools to work with their police liaison to arrange for talks and educational programmes to reinforce this inculcation process.
IE: What about the complaint from the public about response time whenever a crime is reported?
DATO’ MOHD: We have streamlined our reporting system and will begin the process of urging the public to call in to our Operator Police Perak line to report a crime. If they want prompt response, they must call our own Ipoh hotline which is a one-stop centre located in our headquarters here. It will usually take about 15 minutes for a police officer to show up when you call the hotline. When people make the report to the local Balai, the officer in charge may be busy attending to something else.
IE: Considering that you have a wealth of experience and a lot on your plate, how confident are you that the crime rate will be reduced in Perak by the time you’re due for retirement next year? Is this another example of government’s loss being the private sector’s gain?
DATO’ MOHD: Well, I would love to contribute in an advisory capacity. I feel in the prime of my mental capacity and physically I am in good shape. But 58 is the mandatory retirement age and I hope that my successor will build even more on the foundations established by my predecessors and myself.
IE comment: Imagine the boost in manpower and efficiency not to mention financial resources spent on training new recruits if the mandatory retirement age was moved back by a few years. The 30,000 or more members of the force who retire annually nationwide could be put to good use to fight crime.