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Jul 10, 2010 | Commentary

Imparsial, an Indonesian human rights watchdog , led a chorus of complaints from NGOs over the last month about the state of police reform in Indonesia.  While the failure of reforms has been blamed on “weak supervision and lenient punishment for members involved in crimes”, Imparsial also singled out the police’s Internal Affairs Division and General Supervision Inspectorate for protecting officers accused of crimes. The National Police Commission, “a body tasked with receiving public reports on the police”, was also criticized for being inefficient and lacking the necessary powers to carry out its mandate.

In early June, Imparsial also recommended that Public Order Agency units, which are tasked with maintaining peace and security as well as settling disputes, be disbanded.  The NGO cited numerous cases where Public Order Agency officers “relied on violence and force when evicting street children, street vendors, squatters, beggars and sex workers”.  According to Imparsial, these officers are given insufficient training and their responsibilities overlap with the police.

Other NGOs have voiced complaints about police corruption and brutality.  The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) has, for example, accused the police of being complicit in cases of “torture, wrongful arrests, persecution, wrongful shootings and the deaths of suspects during investigations”.  The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) has also come forward with allegations that the police have been involved in more than 300 cases of conflicts with farmers since 2005.

Overall, public trust in the police remains low and many officers lack the requisite education and training to fulfill their duties.  While a police spokesman was receptive to some of the NGOs’ criticisms, the NGO Indonesian Corruption Watch points to “a low level of political will from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his administration to unravel corruption cases within police institutions” as evidence that police reform is not being taken seriously enough.  Furthermore, the failure of police reform over the last decade is also indicative of a larger problem – there is no overarching SSR plan or strategy in Indonesia.