Hong Kong/Jakarta/Singapore (12/10). Hong Kong in 2019 today is like Jakarta 1997-1998. There are big protests everywhere, demand of the a new government, with the image of the Hong Kong Police Force at an all time low. The Hong Kong blue line is accused of police brutality, excessive force, and a myriad of rumours and innuendos. The NGOs claiming the Hong Kong Police Force ((HKPF) as running a “Nazi” style concentration camp. Despite denial and honest of getting the message out the monotone message of “we are the good guys” is white noise for the public. “The cops, sorry to say”, said one protestor, “are tone deaf”.
The public trust in the HKPF has eroded. Even the most supportive voices are no longer are able to speak up.
Public Trust eroded
In an Vox Populi survey conducted by reporters of the Citizen Daily (HK) bureau the perception of the citizen and the relationship with the Hong Kong police was tested. Whereas a few weeks ago, the public was largely undecided about the call for reforms, today citizens interviewed were convinced the old force must go, and a reform of the police, bottom up, is needed.
Even in the ranks grumbling is visible. Resignation, frictions tearing police families apart are all so common. A hotel manager spoke in ayomnity to the reporters said, “I am having relatives in the Hong Kong police force, but I must say the girl being sexually harassed, is a plausible story. But than, who knows.” This should give the commanding officers of the HKPF food for thought. The hotel manager held the view the police has lost control.
The public, including police families, are doubting the force credibility than the institution and social fabric in Hong Kong is torn. The public interaction with the Honk Kong Police Force (HKPF) is usually one of public absence. Everyone knows a cop, but usually the relationship is at a distance.
Today this no longer holds true. The public opinion is firmly against the police. Although the sampling is small, the impression by the public are clear and concise anti-police. Although citizens were cautious of endorsing the police all interviewed citizens had strong opinions against the police. The rift will need to years if not a decade to heal.
An academic visiting Hong Kong who studies civil society movements and radicalization added, “Although the agitation of the public is organized, reality is the Hong Kong police goes about Business As Usual. The people have turned off. The Black Bloc demonstrators and militant feminists have mobilized the public. The “screaming aunties” the older generation of Hong Kong woman lending support to the younger daughters “of the revolution”.” He added, “the systemic hate has boiled over. People have been agitated for years. The government, and the police, have done nothing to counter the radicalization of the public.”
He said, “the police is isolated, a siege mentality has set in. It is us versus them. Running a message board and hoping things are get for the better wont do the trick.” he added. As a result the public trust erodes further and a vicious cycle starts.
Black Bloc gets isolated
Not everything is bleak. And it is the public who speaks out. In an hilarious piece of Hong Kong originality it is not the police which takes the lead on putting the rioter in place. The 70-year old granny has our support. Maybe the HKPF should learn from her. Reports suggests the HKPF has ceased of interacting with their prime customer: the public.
Lessons from the Region
Now, after more than ten years Jakarta, and the institution of the Indonesian police has improved.
In 2016 the Indonesian Police was still included in the three most least trusted institutions of the public. But in 2018 law enforcement institution is in the top three institutions with the best public trust.
How can the Police change their image from negative to positive in the eyes of the public?
When he was appointed as National Police Chief, Tito was given a mandate by President Joko Widodo so that he focused on two things. First to maintain the unity, cohesiveness and internal solidarity of the National Police. Second, continue Police’s reforms thoroughly and consistently.
The President stressed that the reform of the National Police is the key to facing the future. Ranging from recruitment to service to the community, ranging from mental changes to changes in the behavior of police personnel. “I want National Police reforms to be truly concrete,” Jokowi said.
Another work priority is the eradication of crime whose consequences can be estimated (contingency). For example, terrorism, intolerance conflict, mass conflict.
Tito stressed that he would proactively try to prevent and deal with these crimes. Ways to overcome these problems include promoting the function of intelligence and community development and promoting the principle of prevention. “When it happens (crime), enforce the law professionally without creating new problems,” he said.
Tito did not want any mistakes in handling crime, so it caused many victims. “That raises a new problem,” he said.
In addition, according to Tito, there is still a culture that is not yet in the body of the National Police that needs to be improved so that the community becomes safer and more comfortable. The police must be more friendly and serve the community. That’s the important point.
He hoped that officers who had just graduated from the Police Academy would become agents of reform to improve the culture of the National Police.
The President considered the police to be a major milestone in maintaining political security and stability in the country.
In two years, Indonesia had a big agenda starting from the Asian Games, the Asian Para Games, the IMF World Bank Meeting, the regional heads elections and the most important thing for democracy – the presidential election.
That election lead to some demonstrations which often ended in unrests. That’s also what happened on mid-May 2019 after the General Election Commission (KPU) announced the results of the Republic of Indonesia presidential election for the period 2019-2024.
Seeing the dedication of the law enforcement the country’s capital city from anarchist rioters, many citizens felt deeply moved. Many communities spoiled the officers in duty with food, beverages, medicine and all necessary things to keep the squads still in high spirit to take care of their beloved city. They also believe that the police always work professionally in any situation and will succeed in making Jakarta safe again. This was not always so.
The Indonesian police still have lack of citizen’s demands, but they have learned how to serve and protect people better than before. The society begin to respect and appreciate them. Maybe the Hong Kong police could do the same.