When the safety sanctuary comes under threat

THE recent brutal killing of a police officer at Pinggiran Subang Jaya police station raises many questions regarding security and safety at police stations across this nation. This horrific and brutal incident did not occur in a police beat base (pondok polis) nor did it occur at a very isolated police station in a rural under populated area. Pinggiran Subang Jaya police station is located in a densely populated commercial urban area in Klang Valley.

Police stations are viewed as safety sanctuaries by the public. In many societies, people resort to the police especially at police stations when there are in dire need of assistance or need protection when their personal safety is under immediate threat. The feelings of vulnerability and susceptibility being a victim of crime, especially violent crime, is most frightening and makes a person feel totally helpless. Thus, the public needs reassurance, especially when they are under serious threat by criminal elements or terror groups, that they must be able to go to the nearest police station at any time to seek immediate help or protection.

According to official sources, police stations (unlike police beat bases) are supposed to be manned 24 hours a day all year round. In this killing case, some of the concerns regarding safety and security at police stations are as follows:

> What is the minimum number of police personnel required to be on duty at a police station regardless of location?
> What is the policy on personal safety of officers on duty at police stations?
> To what extent are police stations immune to attacks by criminals and terror groups?
> Why was this police station not equipped with a CCTV?
> How can the public be reassured that police stations are safety sanctuaries?; and
> Who will be held accountable and responsible for the unnecessary loss of a precious human life if evidence clearly demonstrates weakness in the administration and management of Pinggiran Subang Jaya police station?

Many of the above questions need to be addressed urgently. Studies conducted by Universiti Sains Malaysia's research team on crime and policing have clearly illustrated that public perception on the fear of crime is strongly correlated to various factors besides the police index crime statistics.

Social media and traditional media have a major impact on the perception rate. Symbols of gang graffiti and loan shark posters displayed boldly in communities also create unwarranted negative perception. CCTVs and street lighting makes a difference on the perception rate. Police job performance has been correlated with perception of fear as well. The perception variables above are non-exhaustive and incidences like the killing of a police officer more so in a police station can create a sense of insecurity among the people. Police stations across the country must continue to be seen as safety sanctuaries. PDRM has always protected and served the rakyat without fail. PDRM must relentlessly pursue the killer/s of this case and at the same time pursue those who failed to ensure that the police station was managed accordingly.

P. Sundramoorthy
School of Social Sciences
Universiti Sains Malaysia