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When you know the problem, why not fix it?

 | September 9, 2017

The new IGP should assess the country's CCTV system as a matter of utmost urgency considering the number of unresolved criminal cases to date.

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If “a workman is only as good as his tools”, and “a cook is only as good as the ingredients he uses”, then a policemen can only be as good as the crime-solving techniques at his disposal.

Over the years, several high profile criminal cases have been left unresolved although the deaths had two things in common. First, the victims met violent deaths. Second, the closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera, which was mounted in the rooms where the victims were last seen, were either malfunctioning, facing the wrong direction or unable to record.

Were these deliberate acts of sabotage or pure carelessness? Was it bad maintenance or as Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamad claimed, a lack of funds? These excuses are pathetic.

Our respect for the police will increase and speculation of a police cover-up will cease only if the victims’ final moments can be tracked on video.

In 2009, political aide Teoh Beng Hock fell to his death from the 14th floor of the MACC building. His death remains unresolved. There is a video recording of him entering the building, but not leaving it. CCTV cameras were allegedly only installed in the lobby and car park areas.

In 2011, Customs officer Ahmad Sarbani was found sprawled on the first-floor roof of the MACC building. His family has refused to accept the findings of the court. We were told an elderly MACC employee, who is not familiar with recording equipment, accidentally erased footage of Sarbani’s last moments. Would Sarbani have jumped from a third-floor window? Or was he pushed?

Three suspects, A Kugan, Dharmendran and S Balamurugan, died whilst in police custody in 2009, 2013 and 2017 respectively. The men were allegedly tortured, but their families were told they died suddenly. Wounds and post-mortem reports point to torture.

CCTV camera footage would have helped in a criminal investigation, except we were told that the cameras were not working, were not installed in the room or were dummy cameras used to deter policemen from petty thefts in the station.

When Pastor Raymond Koh was abducted, the slick precision-timed operation was recorded by the CCTV cameras mounted on private homes. Did the police check the footage from CCTV cameras mounted on street corners, lamp-posts and traffic lights? The police questioned the veracity of the footage of the private videos. They did not divulge their findings concerning the footage from public CCTV cameras.

It is not only suspects who are victims of malfunctioning CCTV cameras. The latest mysterious death was the fatal shooting and stabbing of policeman Valentino Mesa as he sat manning the Subang Jaya police station on his own. Nur Jazlan claimed that the cameras at the station had not worked since 2009.

Last October, Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that the police force would receive RM8.7 billion in the 2017 budget review. The money was to be used for various projects and programmes. How much of this allocation was set aside for CCTV cameras? Few people believe that there are insufficient funds to maintain the cameras.

Last week, Nur Jazlan told reporters that despite having CCTV cameras at all stations, not all were working. So, why bother to install the cameras? Why waste money and mislead the public?

Why give people a false sense of security? Suspects may feel reassured and think that they will not be subject to abuse because the actions of the policemen are being recorded.

The Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad’s (MAHB) CCTV cameras nailed Kim Jong Nam’s assassins within a few days. Surely the ministry can cough-up the necessary funds for CCTV cameras at police stations?

The finance ministry has reduced the budget allocation for CCTV camera maintenance. So, how much was originally set aside? How much more is needed?

In 2013, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced that the government would establish central lock-ups for every state, complete with CCTV cameras.

In 2016, CCTV cameras were reportedly installed in 58 police lock-ups throughout Malaysia to enhance the security of the detention control system. The CCTV cameras were intended to record suicide attempts, escape attempts, sexual assault, outsider attacks and the behaviour of police personnel. Those monitoring the CCTVs were supposed to raise the alarm if they saw any problem.

More importantly, the installations would help improve the image and integrity of the police force, and perhaps reduce the instances of alleged police brutality.

Last year, the Jinjang Centralised Lock-up Centre in Kuala Lumpur, was chosen for a pioneer project at a cost of RM3.5 million. What happened to this study? What was its outcome?

The new inspector-general of police should assess the CCTV system as a matter of the utmost urgency.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.


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