PUTRAJAYA: A lockup chief said today most of the police lockups are overcrowded, causing too many detainees, including juveniles, to be cramped into one cell.
Shah Alam central lockup chief ASP Mazhar Mohamad said normally a big cell should hold eight detainees.
“But sometimes it is overcrowded with 20 detainees.
“This is everywhere, even in small police stations. This is because sometimes during operations, 60 detainees are rounded up,” he said.
The Shah Alam centralised police lockup can hold up to 234 detainees but “sometimes more are allowed”.
As for the number of staff, he said they were supposed to have 189 officers but only had 156.
He said due to the lack of maintenance, 19 of the 88 lockups were not functioning.
Mazhar said some of the problems faced were clogged toilets, poor lighting and water problems.
He said this during a hearing held by the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission today to determine if there was any police misconduct in the death of car theft suspect S Balamurugan while in police custody.
He was arrested on Jalan Batu Belah in Klang on Feb 6 but died the next day at the Klang Utara district police headquarters.
So far, 39 witnesses have been called to testify in the case. They included family members, police officers, a pathologist and detainees.
Mazhar said he and his team had requested for funds for repairs of the lockups but the request was on hold due to lack of funds.
“The budget for the repairs amounts to millions. The centralised air cond is also not working.”
He added officers who wanted to know more about the standard operating procedures of the lockup could look up the information from the police website.
The EAIC public hearing is headed by Yaacob Md Sam. He was questioning Mazhar on lockup procedures and asked how a juvenile was locked together with Balamurugan and other adults.
Mazhar said that he was outstation in Batu Caves at the time to conduct operations during Thaipusam and therefore did not take notice of the running of the facility.
Other shortages at the Shah Alam lockup included a shortage of orange uniforms for detainees.
He said the last batch received was about five or six years ago when the facility was set up and sometimes there were not enough uniforms for detainees.
He said the lockup’s facilities room used to conduct a physical examination of detainees was also not in proper working condition.
Therefore, Mazhar said the checks are held in a temporary holding cell instead as they changed into their lockup uniforms.
If there were any signs of physical injury, Mazhar said detainees were taken to a hospital immediately, accompanied by two policemen.
Detainees were also required to declare whether they had any pre-existing medical conditions during the admission process.
However, CCTV footage from the lockup facility aired at the hearing today showed that no police personnel were present inside the holding cell to carry out inspections as Balamurugan and others changed into lockup uniforms.
To this Mazhar said: “Yes, this is a weakness within the police personnel.”