Health Ministry to probe case of 'mistakenly assaulted doctor'

KUALA LUMPUR: The Ministry of Health is conducting an internal investigation on the alleged assault by personnel of an elite federal police team on a a doctor who was mistaken for a robber last Friday to determine the factors that had led to the case.

Health Ministry deputy director-general (medical) Datuk Dr S. Jeyaindran said yesterday that he had ordered a probe on the case.

In describing the case as "very unfortunate" and empathizing with the plight of the victim, he said a preliminary report showed that the policemen had reacted by pursuing the 28-year-old doctor as he defied police orders to stop leaving the scene.

"We learnt that the police were there to ambush a group of criminals. When the police ordered the doctor to stop he continued running towards the direction of the suspected criminals. When he fell and the police caught up with him, he allegedly started punching the policemen, leaving the police no choice but to apprehend him. He told them he is doctor but the police took him to the police station to verify this. I believe this is part of police procedures and they were observing their SOP (standard operating procedure). At that point they are not sure who he really is. Anybody can be wearing the blue surgical scrubs or stethoscope he had on him. Later, a hospital staff went over to testify he was indeed a doctor. It was a misunderstanding and is a very unfortunate incident. We have to wait for the conclusive findings of the police as well to get both sides of the story. We also understand the doctor situation on that day. He was having a break at the stalls and then suddenly being surrounded by the police, anybody can be taken aback even if the cops were in uniform. Moreover anybody can appear and say they are policemen," he told theSun when contacted.

Jeyaindran said, however, though not a major issue, the doctor should have notified his colleague or superior when he stepped out of the building for his break.

He said it was a SOP to observe at hospitals SOP for staff to be aware of the whereabouts of its doctors.

"We are not saying do not take breaks or take any disciplinary action against him. We understand this but by notifying his superior, it can save a lot of issues when a problem like this occurs. It is all about accountability. His superiors were unaware of the incident until they received a call from the police who wanted a staff to verify the doctors claim of being a member of the hospital," he said.

Jeyaindran also agreed that the police should not be solely blamed over the incident as they were merely doing what they did best.

"I think in the end of the day, this should be treated as a learning experience for both the police and us." he said.

Sepang police chief ACP Abdul Aziz Ali said the case was a misunderstanding and a "genuine mistake".

"What can we expect the policemen to do when someone runs after being told not to. They obviously had to counter such reaction and do what they went there for. The police had clearly identified themselves when they arrived and told everyone who was at the foodstall to not run as they were there to catch a group of criminals. We will continue our investigations and be fair to both sides," he told theSun.

Sources said investigators also discovered that the special operations police team had also pursued the fleeing doctor as his physique resembled that of a suspect of a robbery gang they had come to nab.

The case front-paged in theSun on Wednesday revealed how the doctor who was having his dinner at a row of food stalls next to the Serdang Hospital at 7.45pm last Friday was handcuffed and assaulted by members of the federal police Special Task Force on Organised Crime (Stafoc) after being mistaken for a robber.

The doctor who is attached to the cardiology department and whose father is a policeman in district police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur had claimed that he was unaware that the men who were clad in black full tactical gear, balaclavas and carried heavy firearms were policemen on a special operation to nab a gang of robbers who were also at the food stalls.

He claimed many others at the stalls scurried away and he too ran away as he thought the men were robbers.

Sources familiar with the operations of elite federal police such as the Stafoc said the incident was regrettable but the policemen were not at fault.

"These are members of special crack teams. They are trained to aggressively pursue criminals and successfully carry out what the general police personnel may not be capable of. There is little margin for error. Hence, when they arrive, it is all about ensuring the pursued criminals are caught. They are trained to go after anyone who raises their suspicion or attempts to run away from them. In this case, the Stafoc went after the Ram Gang and succeeded in apprehending all the seven suspects who were at the food stalls. Had one of them escaped, it would be considered an incomplete job executed by the raiding team," said a source.