State of fear

I think it is utterly disgraceful that we should openly talk about the fact that, on encountering a policeman, our first reaction should be fear. “Most people associate the police with punishing us for doing something wrong (although we haven’t),” said a clinical psychologist in the Sunday Star on July 18.

No one even bothers to say what the correct response is any more (reassurance, in case you’ve forgotten), and a few paragraphs later in the story Michael Chong says that people are rightly perplexed because of all the bogus cops out there: “If they stop [because they are told to by someone appearing to be a policeman], they might get robbed but if they don’t, they might get shot.”

Robbery by a false cop, or shot by a real one. These are your choices. Be robbed then, if you value your life, for clearly the Royal Malaysian Police does not. I am obviously not making this up (it’s in The Star, so it has to be true, right?)

Unlike these chaps, however, my first reaction on seeing any policeman is contempt. Yes they are armed with idiot-proof Glocks or Sig Sauers, but that does not earn respect. It provokes the same kind of sensation as when I come across a rabid animal (this used to happen daily when I worked from Parliament).

Now some idiot social commentators advise us to demand and pay close attention to the authority cards (i.e. warrant cards) the police must produce when they detain us.  Two questions: have you ever seen such a card prior to being detained by a cop? If not, how they hell are you supposed to tell if it is in fact a warrant and not, for example, a local library card? Secondly: if the thug is about to rob/rape/shoot you, don’t you think asking for an authority card is on par with assaulting a tank with a bouquet of carnations?

This reminds me of  a 2007 case  in which a film producer was was gaoled and fined (one day, RM100) for yelling at a traffic cop and showing him the finger because he was apparently making a cataclysm of the already messy traffic situation at the Hang Tuah-Imbi intersection. I used to work in that part of town and know that junction well. I have in fact done the same thing a number of times. Read the court report, if you like, but I want to quote a section of it anyway:

Prosecuting officer C/Insp R. Rukumar asked that she be fined and jailed for the offence, saying she had insulted a government official.
He said something bad could have happened had the traffic policeman concerned lost his patience.
When asked by Magistrate Aizatul Akmal Maharani what he meant by that, C/Insp Rukumar said the traffic policeman could have lost his cool and took out his firearm.
Fortunately, he did not do that and only arrested the accused. After sentencing Koh, Aizatul Akmal reminded her not to repeat the act.
“Even I have to show respect to policemen,” he said.

My immediate reaction was: what the fuck is wrong with the magistrate? I insult government officials all the damned time in the newspaper, on the street, at the coffee-shop, to other government officials, to the government official him or herself, etc. I do not remember a law or an order by gazette anywhere suggesting that I exempt public servants from public contempt.

So I wrote a letter in response, which The Star ran, but I have since lost the link to it:

I am appalled to learn that I might be shot by a policeman for no other reason than that he has lost his patience (“Filmmaker jailed for insulting policeman,” April 28).

Surely there are clear procedures establishing precisely under what conditions an armed uniformed policeman is permitted to unholster his revolver, and I cannot believe that showing him my middle finger qualifies as any kind of threat to life or property.

The primary duty of the police is to protect, and this country will have truly gone to the dogs if public safety can be threatened by a simple gesture, however vulgar.

Sadly, this episode admits that a person without sufficient maturity or clarity of mind can be recruited into the force and entrusted to carry a loaded firearm.

If, as the prosecuting chief inspector said, “the traffic policeman could have lost his cool and took out his firearm” for no greater reason than being shown the finger, what more can we expect of the same policeman in a high-risk situation demanding accurate threat assessment and split-second judgement?

It disappoints me that the sitting magistrate did not require further comment on this matter.

U-En Ng, Kuala Lumpur

To this day the Inspector-General insists on making a state secret of his Standing Orders regarding the use of weapons. And now we even have the gall to ask: “oh yes, people are confused. Should they stop and be robbed, or flee and be shot?”

Whose fault is that?


One thought on “State of fear

  1. Remember the success of the orange Vs the Dutch painted during Nazi occupation? I’ve often thought Malaysia needs something akin to that, contra the culture of impunity.

    What is the Malay for, ‘In destroying others, impunity destroys itself.’?

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