By Mariam Mokhtar
Let us imagine that you are about to report a break-in to the police when you were caught in the cross-fire when one person shot another.
What would you say if the shooting occurred at the reception counter of a police station and the person who had drawn the gun was aiming at her colleague? It was your bad luck to be accidentally shot, and you thank your lucky stars that you did not receive a fatal wound.
Wouldn’t you demand a thorough investigation into the incident? Or would you think that it is a minor incident that is best forgotten?
On February 17, a police lance corporal at the Pekan Baru police station allegedly drew her pistol and pointed it at her male colleague. The 33-year-old was in a heated argument with a 35-year-old police corporal. The incident which took place around 5.10pm at the report counter of the police station, was witnessed by two other policemen. One of them intervened and removed the gun from the policewoman.
The incident is shocking but not as shocking as the Perak police chief, Razarudin Husain’s announcement, that both were still on duty. Razarudin confirmed that the incident had taken place and was the result of a misunderstanding. He also said that an internal investigation was in progress.
Is that it? Does Razarudin not realise the seriousness of the incident? Shouldn’t both be suspended, pending an investigation?
Is it any wonder that the general public lacks confidence in the PDRM. This is a serious matter. The public is not reassured when the punishment for drawing a pistol, in a public place, like the police counter, is the equivalent of a rap on the knuckles.
Would the punishment be similar if two members of the public had been involved in a similar altercation, and a pistol had been pointed, but not discharged? There would have been arrests, a period of detention, a lengthy court trial, bail would have been posted and the appropriate punishment dished out.
Is the policewoman under a lot of pressure at work, or perhaps at home? Was the policeman teasing her performance, or did he say something personal? It must have been a grievous allegation, to make her draw her pistol and point it at him.
Did the policeman, with whom she argued, taunt her and did he say something offensive, that compelled her to draw her weapon? How far away was she from discharging the pistol? Was he propositioning her? Do these two have work issues and have a testy work relationship? Had their lack of camaraderie been building over an appreciable period of time?
Both the policewoman and policeman should have been suspended, and the policewoman should not be allowed to handle firearms, for the rest of her career in the police force.
Would the chief of police fail to take action, unless one had been injured, or died?
Is the police chief aware of the seriousness of the incident? In civilised countries, the two would have been suspended while an internal investigation and an independent investigation were conducted.
So, is this low key discipline, how the Perak police force deals with this type of incident? Or is this normal procedure within the PDRM?
In Singapore, both would have been investigated. The one who drew the weapon would have been suspended and his revolver taken away from him. He would be barred from carrying any weapon. If the drawing of the weapon was due to any criminal intent, the officer would have been arrested and charged. Any negligent discharge of a firearm is a grave matter in Singapore, and may possibly end in the gallows.
The primary duty of the police is to serve the public. To equip a policeman with a firearm is a costly exercise. He has to be trained to use the weapon in a responsible manner. The firearm also costs money, and has to be stored securely, and kept in good order.
More important than the cost of upkeep and training, is the accountability of those who carry firearms. How are policemen trained, and assessed before being permitted to handle firearms?
In February, it was reported that a pistol belonging to a policeman had been used in a hotel robbery in Menglembu. The policeman who was working in Tanjung Rambutan had reported it missing, a month before the robbery.
This is a good time as any to push through the implementation of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).
In the meantime, will the Perak police chief take his duties more seriously?