PETALING JAYA: Calls have been made for the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill 2019 to be passed without further delay, ahead of its debate in the Dewan Rakyat today.
The bill, the first in the country to be referred to the Select Committee for the Consideration of Bills following its tabling on July 18, was first proposed in 2005 as one of several recommendations by a royal commission of inquiry amid reports of increased deaths in custody and claims of police brutality.
Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah said the bill would not only improve the accountability and transparency of the police force, it would also safeguard their welfare.
“It is important to note that deaths in custody should not be automatically attributed to the misconduct of police officers; indeed, a very small number of such deaths are a result of such failings,” she said in a statement.
“However, there is a dire need for an independent body to investigate these matters and to restore public confidence in one of our most important national institutions.”
The current bill proposes that the IPCMC be independent from the police force and that no police officer sits on its committee. Any reports of deaths in custody are to be reported directly to the IPCMC.
Another key clause is that the bill can compel police officers to provide information or surrender documents to facilitate an investigation, failing which they could face fines, imprisonment, or both.
While the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) currently oversees disciplinary conduct of all enforcement officers, it can only recommend actions to be taken by the Police Force Commission and not enforce those actions themselves.
There have been multiple flashpoints leading to increased calls for the IPCMC, including the disappearances of activist Amri Che Mat and Pastor Raymond Koh, the death of Kugan Ananthan in 2009 from kidney failure while in police custody, and the 2010 case of 14-year-old Aminulrasyid Amzah who died after being shot by the police during a car chase.
“Our experience representing victims of police brutality, deaths in custody, shootings and cover-ups leaves no doubt that the IPCMC is necessary to ensure accountability and transparency, to restore public confidence in the police force,” said rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL).
LFL director Melissa Sasidaran said although the EAIC had positive elements, it had been undermined by limited resources as it monitors 21 agencies.
She said the fact that 80% of complaints to the EAIC in 2017 were about the police clearly demonstrates the need for an independent body to deal specifically with complaints of misconduct against the police.
“Independence is not taking the complainant’s side,” she said in a statement.
“It is the search for truth and the objectivity and impartiality to speak that truth, whichever ‘side’ it seems to favour.”