IDEAS: Increase police accountability, create separate national, state divisions

Wan-Saiful-polisPETALING JAYA: A local think tank has called for the decentralisation of the police force, with the establishment of subnational police forces.

Making the case for such a move, the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) said it would create a division between national, state and even municipal police forces.

“The accountability of the whole police force will be greatly improved as there are more points for checks and balances when we create accountability mechanisms at state and possibly even municipal levels.

“By breaking up the police force into smaller units, the current monopoly of power between the home minister and the inspector-general of police can be broken down, thus preventing the politicisation of policing.

“This will help strengthen public trust in the police force”, said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who is IDEAS chief executive.

He added it was one of the proposals in IDEAS’ new policy paper entitled “Reigning in the IGP’s Power: Decentralisation as an Option”.

“While having a centralised system does come with some advantages, in Malaysia this has led to several concerns such as the lack of check and balance mechanisms on the IGP’s power.

“Independent oversight bodies are also absent in our country, thus resulting in the IGP acting with almost absolute power that is not properly checked,” Wan Saiful said in a statement.

IDEAS hopes to address the issue of how to make the office of the IGP more accountable with this new policy paper.

“This paper is a continuation of an earlier policy paper released by IDEAS entitled ‘Strengthening the Royal Malaysia Police by Enhancing Accountability’.

“This is a topic that is not yet sufficiently studied and IDEAS believes there is a need to look further into it,” Wan Saiful said.

According to IDEAS, the centralisation of power is a systemic issue that is at the heart of the lack of accountability of the IGP and the police force as a whole.

“Despite Malaysia being a country that practices federalism, we have many institutions that are heavily centralised. The police force is one example but it has not been studied enough.

“The IGP wields an enormous amount of power over the police force, as he is in charge of 10 departments and all 148 police districts in the country.”

Another proposal in the policy paper was for the Special Branch (SB) to be taken out of the purview of Bukit Aman, and become the equivalent of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the United States.