A sharp increase in the attacks on the country’s police offices and facilities last year is an indication of the public’s growing discontent toward law enforcers, a watchdog said on Tuesday.
Indonesian Police Watch said as many as 65 police offices and facilities were either burned or vandalized by members of the public in 2011, up from 20 such incidents in 2010.
“This significant rise shows how the people have become more and more resistant toward our law enforcement officials,” said Neta S. Pane, chairman of the watchdog.
Batam island in Riau saw the most vandalism cases, with 18 police facilities burned in just one year, IPW reported.
“Eighteen police offices and 11 police vehicles in Batam were set on fire during a labor protest in November,” Neta said.
More than 10,000 workers marched in Batam on Nov. 24 to demand a wage increase. The protest turned violent as they walked through industrial zones and reportedly started torching cars and smashing windows.
Across Indonesia, the country saw a total of 48 police offices, 12 vehicles and five official houses vandalized last year. A number of those incidents were direct responses to alleged police abuse or repression, IPW reported.
For instance, several police offices and facilities in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, were damaged last month as residents protested the police’s deadly crackdown on an anti-mining rally.
“Two separate clashes broke out in Ambon, Maluku, and in Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara, in November and December after the death of a civilian, allegedly caused by the police,” the watchdog’s report said.
Dany Polanunu, 17, died after the traffic police in Ambon allegedly beat him, while Arnaldus Hapong, 40, died when the Lembor district police allegedly tortured him after arresting him.
“The National Police chief needs to remind his men so that in 2012 they don’t act arrogant or repressive but are consistent in performing their duties as professional and proportional civilian police officers,” Neta said.
“If nothing is done, the people could get more desperate and take their fight against the police to the next level.”
National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar, however, had a different take on the violence against police last year.
While he acknowledged that attacks on the police may have stemmed from dissatisfaction with law enforcement, he didn’t agree that poor law enforcement caused the dissatisfaction.
“Usually the public’s anger toward the police is caused by enforcement of the law, which means most of the time people are unhappy if the law is being upheld,” Boy claimed.
The spokesman said the police had not yet created any special strategy to improve their relationship with the public during the next year.
“We’re always nice to everybody, except those who break the law,” he insisted.
“I can imagine that such people [who break the law] would not like to get arrested because then they’d have to go through the whole judicial process.”
“The people should not destroy police’s facilities, because what we are doing is a public service and the facilities belong to the state,” he added.