PETALING JAYA: An academic has agreed that raising the salaries of lower-ranked police officers will help minimise corruption in the force, saying there is presently a wide discrepancy between their wages and the authority given to them.
P Sundramoorthy from Universiti Sains Malaysia also noted other issues such as limited office space, a shortage of equipment, limited budget for the repair and maintenance of official vehicles and delays in the installation of CCTV cameras in hotspot areas.
He said these problems also cause frustration and stress among the police.
“More importantly, ineffectual internal accountability and weak external accountability mechanisms have failed to control and minimise corruption in the police force,” he told FMT.
He added that corruption might become too big a temptation for rank-and-file members if their salaries are insufficient, especially in a poor working environment.
Top cop Abdul Hamid Bador recently said that raising the salaries of lower-ranked members of the police was the only way to reduce the risk of corruption and other temptations to commit crimes to earn money.
He also said that the salaries of such officers were not enough to cover the cost of living, especially for those stationed in cities.
In addition to this, Sundramoorthy said, the chances of being apprehended and punished for corruption are low in Malaysia’s criminal justice system.
“This by itself encourages the plague of corruption. If the chances of losing one’s job are very low compared to the probability of being caught for corruption, then the rational choice would obviously be to accept or demand bribes.”
He urged members of the force to reject any form of corruption or police misconduct, saying corruption must be viewed as taboo by all officers.
He also called on those in positions of leadership to come down hard on officers who have benefited from ill-gotten gains over the years, suggesting a punishment-reward system for minimising corruption.
“Accountability and high levels of professionalism in all ranks will bring back public confidence in the police force,” he said.
Former Transparency-International Malaysia president Akhbar Satar said the best strategy to combat corruption is to ensure the welfare of rank-and-file officers.
He suggested the provision of more housing quarters for the police, saying many are considered overworked and underpaid.
“Those who do not get quarters have to spend more than half of their salary to rent an apartment.”
He said the average salary scale of a police officer is between RM1,014 and RM3,517, which makes it difficult to survive in big cities such as Kuala Lumpur.
“The government needs to seriously consider increasing the force’s budget and the salaries of rank-and-file officers, and provide them with good infrastructure and facilities for the welfare of their families.”
He acknowledged that a salary hike might not completely wipe out corruption in the force but said it would help reduce the temptation to take bribes.
He urged senior officers to take the lead in showing a good example, adding that the public should also refrain from offering bribes to the police.
This article first appeared on FMT.