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Police Day, COVID-19 and a 21 year old with 20 criminal records

Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody Together, EDICT, is disappointed that due to COVID-19, the police and the public could not observe Police Day yesterday, 25 March.

Observing Police Day annually is a good thing. It is a day on which we recognize the need for a police force. A day on which we honour officers who run towards danger when others run away. A day on which we remember those who make sacrifices for the good of others.

EDICT is glad to recognize the dedication of police officers in enforcing the COVID-19 movement orders. Police officers are on the ground, operating roadblocks, issuing warnings, making arrests – putting themselves at risk so that we might be safe. We honour them for their service.

However, we must not forget that one of the things we must also do on Police Day is look at some police actions which tarnish the reputation of police officers. We take as an example a story reported on 24 March, the eve of Police Day.

FMT headlined it “Man arrested for ramming through police roadblock.” We summarize the story in the following paragraph.

At 2 am, a Perodua Alza car rammed into a police roadblock in Batu Caves, then rammed the toll gate barrier at the Gombak toll booth and sped towards Bentong until it crashed about 23 km later. Three suspects escaped on foot. The driver was arrested at 5 pm, in Kuala Lumpur. The arrestee is 21 years old, and “has 20 previous criminal records.”

We are glad no police officers were injured during what appears to have been a car chase of an extremely reckless driver. We note also that it appears no shots were fired. But many things surprise us.

We are surprised not one suspect was apprehended at the scene of the crash. We are surprised the story does not say how the police can be sure the person they arrested is the driver of the car. We are surprised the story does not say for how long the arrestee has been remanded.

We are also shocked that the police appear to have told the media the arrestee, aged 21 years, “had 20 previous criminal records connected to criminal activities and drugs.” We are shocked for three reasons.

We are shocked because we wonder how he could have 20 convictions in three years of adulthood.

We are shocked because we wonder why someone with so many criminal convictions is not in jail. We are shocked because we wonder why information about his alleged previous convictions is revealed.

We are shocked because the revealing of such information shows a lack of understanding of how the law works. Prior convictions are considered “spent convictions.” Even in court hearings, spent convictions are not mentioned (‘aired’). They may be aired only if authorised by the judge.

Judges occasionally refer to spent convictions during sentencing – which of course only happens after a finding of guilt.

We are even more shocked that the revelation is said to have been made by a senior police officer – Gombak police chief, ACP Arifai Tarawe.

We call upon ACP Arifai to avoid making such references in the future.

We also call upon Inspector General of Police, Tan Sri Hamid Bador, to refresh his officers about information which may be revealed to the public. He should also review whether incorrect information was released to the media and if it was, he should review what motivated such release.


EDICT 26 March 2020

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