Thursday, May 6, 2010

Police Casualties: A Reason to shoot first..

The special Panel set up by the Ministry of home Affairs to investigate the death of Aminulrasyid Amzah (15), has concluded that the investigation done by the police was "fair and transparent". Whatever that means is up to the Ministry to interpret but pressure to set up a Royal Comission to reinvestige the matter seems to to be building up.

One should not jump to any conclusion, especially based on emotions since the boy victim was unarmed and was not shooting at the police to justify that they were acting in self-defence. The police in a car chase must certainly be prepared for any eventuality and being slow on your gun may cost you your life. People who try to get away after the police started to trail them, are usually badhats and could very well be armed. Who would expect a 15 year old to try and out -maneuver the police?

We'll let the Ministry of Home Affairs and the government decide on the matter after acquiring all the relevant information, especially from the aggrieved party, and not just the police. What must be debated early and and a guideline given to the police is: when can they start to actually shoot when chasing any suspect? Is it after they are fired at, after a colleague has been attack or killed, or whenever the suspect's action sends a danger signal to them. Could they shoot at a suspect trying to run away after being flagged down to stop at a road block?

I suppose such decisions must be based on the crime situation in the country. If too many police personnel are getting killed in trying to apprehend a suspect without the threat of a gun, then there's reason to shoot whenever they see a danger sign. Shoot first and ask questions later. But if the crime situation and the death statistics of police personnel are not that bad, shooting should be allowed only when you see a criminal suspect waving a gun and about to use it.

Having said that what is the death statistics among police officers in Malaysia and how good or bad are they as compared to the police in other countries? I read somewhere that there were about 13 deaths this year (up to May) while there were 81 deaths in 1998 and 63 in 1999. That's pretty high compared to the Police in US which registered 61 deaths in 1998 and only 42 in 1999. UK registered only 14 deaths in 2002 while Mexico registered some 240 deaths in 2007. I could not find any statistics with regard to the Thai Police nor is there an up-to-date statistics on this issue. Statistics on the number of police officers injured are more difficult to find.

I think such statistics are very important to give the police some guidance on when they had to be trigger happy and when to draw out their guns only in the face of obvious danger. Only with such statistics can we evaluate the fairness of shooting at a suspect or suspects trying to run away in a car or a motorcycle after being ordered to stop. Otherwise you just have to follow the suspect and call on other units to block his path. With the advancement in radio technology, I don't think it's difficult for any patrol car chasing a suspect to summon help from another unit to cut him off. There is, of course, no justification at all to shoot at a suspect trying to run away if there's no shooting on his part.


abdulhalimshah said...

Akhi Norzah,
I concur with you on the circumstances that would allow the Police to shoot. But what is only known to us to let them open fire may be too scanty.
The recently announced National target of bringing down the rate of crime must have been the reason why the Police is rather eager to use their weapons. If I were in their position and being privy to the information of crime in that police district, I would not hesitate to open fire when a driver refuse to stop when asked to do so. A moving target is as good as a cowboy shooting the injuns that we saw in the movies during our schooldays. Perhaps the Police should have been calling for reinforcements, but the heat of the chase must had been judged as a justifiable cause to open fire even when you are not shot at.It is a question of judgement and I would give the benefit of the doubt to the law enforcer looking at the rising serious crime statistics for the past several years.

kaykuala said...

Akhi Norzah,
While we can debate and offer suggestions especially after the fact and on hindsight, how is it on the ground in an emergency situation.
A law enforcer faced with a situation which seem familiar to him (though it may be in a different context ) either 1) told during training 2) or seen how his colleague was gunned down in cold blood, 3) or how another colleague was mowed down while manning a road block, or even 4) after watching of brutalities suffered by law enforcers on TV – in what frame of mind would he be then?
What with all the condemnation and insults against the police ( we need not look far – the venom spewed in blog comments were enough) And if that is not enough, there’s one even calling for the resignation of the IGP today (uttered in the august house of the Penang DUN no less)
What would be running in the mind of a simple policeman when at that critical moment it would be a ‘him or me’ situation? He would be defensive (mindful of what he had seen) and angry ( for all the anti-police comments). Rightly or wrongly was not the top-most issue on his mind then. It was plainly the raw instinct of staying alive which would be uppermost. The anger tipped the scale and made them trigger-happy, I would think.
So what is the solution for those on the ground. In simple terms how are they to react given different situations. We cannot enumerate specifics on events or situations but we can change or help change the mindset on 2 counts ie 1) The police have their SOP. It appears it is not working. It therefore needs revamping to incorporate modern times and the internet age. 2) Those on the ground need help to change their mindsets in more ways than one. The help should come from an enlightened leadership.

norzah said...

Akhi Halim, the target of bringing the crime rate down and the heat of the chase could very well become the justification for shooting at the moving car. These are compulsive emotional factors that can make a policeman trigger happy and I fully agree with you. My question is should emotional factors be allowed to govern the action of a policeman with a gun? Does the current SOP for shooting at a suspect allow for the emotional factors to out-weight rational judgement.
As you said we don't know all the facts and, therefore, cannot make any judgement. What is important is for the police to make sure that no policeman shoots based on his situational emotion,

norzah said...

Akhi Kk, you raised a very significant question as to whether the police SOP for shooting at a suspect is working or not, whether it can stop a policeman from shooting at a suspect based or situational factors (like after seeing a colleague being gunned down etc), or emotional factors (like being angry that the police had been severely criticized by some people). I think reexamining the SOP in the light of current criminal modus operandi and technological advancement would be the right way of trying to reduce crime by killing all the suspects.

abdulhalimshah said...

Akhi Norzah,
The SOP for all law enforcers in discharging their weapons is more or less the same in most Commonwealth countries. The difference perhaps are the circumstances in which they operate. The training every law enforcer receive in handling firearms is very strict and normally under supervision of qualified instructors. But finally the responsibility rests with the individual personnel. At no point of time I would condone discharging of weapons under duress, because the termination of a human life is not something which is to be taken willy nilly.
To discharge a firearm is a great burden and if not exercised with caution could put the responsible personnel in dire straits and could even be charged for homicide. Thus I agree with you that a person must exercise great restraint before opening fire. We must wait for the findings and if negligence is proven, the policeman must face the consequences. Before that takes place I would prefer to err on the right side of the law.

norzah said...

Dalam berita TV3 sebentr tadi soal menyimak semula SOP penggunaan senjata api telah pun disebut oleh Pengerusi Panel Khas yg ditubuhkan, ya Akhi. Walaupun ia mungkin sama dengan yang digunakan oleh polis seluruh dunia, tentu ada pemusuaian yang dibuat. Itulah yang patut dikesan selain dari perlakuan yang tidak mengikut SOP itu. I totally agree with you that there should not be any 'dischargeing of weapons under duress'.

rambomadonna said...

I gave my opinion on my friend's blog a week ago. Here is the link.

norzah said...

I have read your comment, J, and am ready to give the benefit of the doubt to the police. But another teenager had been shot at a roadblock in Seremban because a warning shot by the police went awry. What kind of an excuse. A warning shot is normallky fired into the air. Shoot at the ground level and you can hit anyone else who happens to be around. It simply shows that the SOP for shooting is too loose and needs to be tightened up.