TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Three middle-ranking police officers who appear to have stolen money related to drug crimes must be severely punished. There must be a decriminalization program for drug users.
THE three despicable police officers who stole drug money in Surabaya last October should be severely punished. Posted to the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), they stole money confiscated from the owner of a money changer kiosk accused of laundering money belonging to drug dealer Cristian Jaya Kusuma, alias Sancai. Their actions were reported to the President and other institutions.
This is nothing new. In 2016, the director of the Bali Police Narcotics Division, Sr. Comr. Franky Haryanto Parapat, was fired for extorting money from a drug suspect. Extortion and collusion wreck the law enforcement process: after being given bribes, the police halt investigations, or at the very least put them on hold.
The drug business involves a huge amount of money. Every year it generates more than Rp300 trillion, equivalent to three and a half times the budget for Jakarta. The people involved continue to operate because they know they can manipulate the legal process.
Unfortunately, with the authority that they have, police officers have become a part of the narcotics distribution network, for example by providing backing for dealers. A survey carried out by the Social Institute of Research, Education and Information of Social and Economic Affairs showed that respondents believed that almost half of police officers (43.3 percent) were backers for the drugs and gambling businesses. The survey carried out 14 years ago in Malang and Surabaya, the location of the latest extortion, is still relevant as long as this problem is not tackled no matter that every chief of National Police promises to rid the force of drug crime.
The loophole often used by the police and BNN officers to act dishonestly often happened in the investigation process when a suspect has to be identified as a drug dealer or mere user. This power is completely in the hands of law enforcement officers without any clear guidelines. This lack of clarity can be used to extort suspects. There are frequent reports that those who are able to pay are declared to be users and only obliged to undergo rehabilitation, while those who are poor are jailed as dealers.
There are dire consequences if the law can be bought: dealers are free to continue doing business, while drug users rot in jail. At present half of jail cells are occupied by drug convicts, mostly small-time users - a group that should be helped by rehabilitation programs.
The police and the BNN should learn from the Netherlands and Portugal. Those countries have implemented a decriminalization program for drug users. This policy has been effective in reducing the number of first-time users, limiting the distribution of drugs and reducing the cases of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis. However, the BNN and the police must first guarantee that their officers do not collude with drug dealer networks. They should not hesitate to fire officials who enrich themselves.
Moreover, the police chief should post honest and professional officers to the BNN and the Narcotics Directorate. These two postings should not be treated as a bargaining tool for posting officers something that is often done to reward or punish people as part of the internal politics within the police.
Without professionalism, drugs will not be eradicated. Dealers will continue to grow their businesses, and users will be jailed. Meanwhile, rotten police will enjoy their ill-gotten gains from drugs.
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