Statement One Year Assessment on Police Reform “Increase Police Power – Unaccountable – People’s problems remain Unresolved”
One Year Assessment on Police Reform
“Increase Police Power – Unaccountable – People’s problems remain Unresolved”
Mandated by the Constitution B.E. 2560 (2017), the National Committee on Justice Reform (Police) which was chaired General Boonsrang Niampradit concluded the guidelines for the police reform and revealed on Wednesday 28 March 2018 at the National Defense Academy. The 18-page summary report of the Committee’s operation had been submitted to the Prime Minister and the chief of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), General Prayuth Chan-o-cha. The People’s Alliance for Police Reform (Police Watch) and its partners view that the report and recommendations of the Committee was not responsive to the need of people and society as a whole. The recommendations are attempting only to increase the power of the police but reduce the power of the people rather than promoting access to justice. The recommendations also failed to address the structural change but centralizing power and resources. Besides, there is no clear distribution of human resources to the provincial, local or station level but more accumulate at the regional level. This centralization of power, and the long line of command, hierarchical structure, non- professional, community disconnection, no check and balance system, neglecting effective people participation, no respect on Human Rights and equality . Therefore, Police Watch concludes that the recommendation of the National Committee submitted to the Prime Minister is a vague, invalid and quite superficial. There will not be able to resolve the problems or bring about any positive changes accordingly to ensure justice for all the people and society as a whole.
Police Watch and the partners view the National Committee’s recommendations as follow:
1. Human Resources: Recruitment and Appointment of the Police Commissioner General will be under the authority of Police Commission (Chaired by the current Police Chief or Police Commissioner General) instead of the (previously) National Police Policy Board (NPPB) (Chaired by the Prime Minister) as recommended by the National Committee on Justice Reform (Police). The elected Prime Minister should have legitimate authority to consider and appoint such Police leadership. There is little progress such as the qualification for considering such appointment of staff at various levels. Actually, that is the internal
and administrative arrangement of the police agency to ensure justice for all as usual. However, it is not a reform at all,
Nevertheless, an effective Administrative Reform needs to decentralize the power and resources to provincial level. Taking into account, structural reform must be carry out boost the Provincial Police as pointed out by the Prime Minister recently on May 23, 2017. However, the Provincial Governors, as the key persons who are in charge on various affairs, must be mandated to appoint, assign or allocate such police personnel’s especially on the provincial police commander and other lower rank officers after the approval of the Provincial Committee or Provincial Police Affairs Committee. The line of command must be shortened and be more efficient.
Police Watch views that the Provincial Police Region (1 – 9) (actually it is now functioning as the Regional Police Command Office) are not functioning very well and they must be disbanded to safe the cost of more than 7 billion Baht a year. Immediately, there will be other 5,000 police forces available to be allocated in response to the need of 1,480 police stations throughout the country.
Regarding the Independence Police Complaints Committee (IPCC), Police Watch views this as a good idea but practically it is still problematic, weak and not impartiality. The Independence Committee must be absolutely “Independent” from various influences particularly it should not be under the National Police Commission (NPC) led by the Police Chief. Composition of this Independence Committee is not appropriate. However, as the National Committee on Justice Reform (Police) recommended that board members, secretary and deputy of this Independence Police Complaint Committee and its support staff are from the Police Inspector General Office (of the National Police Office) who might be seen to have conflict of interest. This might not be independence from influential factors especially from their superior officials. This is directly affecting the consideration and the judgment based on clear evidence, fair and justice for all.
2. Duty, Authority and Mandates: So far, there is no progress action in response to the cabinet resolution on September B.E. 2558 (2015) which endorsed the recommendations of the National Reform Council (NRC). The NRC recommended that 11 units currently under police responsibility (including the tasks, human resources, budget and equipments) be transferred to the respective or relevant ministries or agencies. This is in order to reduce the police burden, and share responsibility to other agencies. So that the Police forces should be able to focus on the main function such as the law enforcement, crime investigation and ensure efficiency in its operation. There was a question whether those agencies are ready to handle the tasks. However, it is the main duty of the government to be accountable and
operate within a certain time frame. Nevertheless, this is also in line with the National Police Act B.E.
2547 (2003) which was in place since 14 years ago but no progress had been made.
3. Law Enforcement and Crime Investigation System: Recommendation on Investigation system is drawing back to the previous arrangement before the (problematic) National Council for Peace and order (NCPO) Order 7/2559 (2016). The Order dissolved such arrangement on the positions and affecting professionalism of the investigation officers which brought about consequence problems. There is no guarantee that such investigation will be conducted fairly, professionally, and to act legally without any interference, harassment, or intimidation. Quite often that such appointment or disciplinary punishment by the police superior had been used to threaten the investigation officers. If they denied to distort the evidence. As the matter of fact, many police station chiefs are not so qualified, knowledgeable or capable on crime investigation. Some (and many) of them taken a short-cut by jumping up thru through illegal means and gained support from the criminal. This is definitely affecting crime investigation. Such “verbal order” always used by the superior commanders and that led to the abuse of investigation. Citing some examples, filing the case against innocents without proper evidence; destroying the evidence or crime scene investigation to cease the cases, etc. These always happened if the public prosecutor was not able to check, control and monitoring the investigation closely. This must be in line with international standard. For example, the current case here of “30 million Baht Lotto dispute” and other cases also reflected the failure of professional crime investigation and miscarriage of justice. These problems always brought about the painful experiences of the innocent victims. Most of them are the ordinary
In summary, the recommendation of the National Justice Reform Committee (Police) didn’t touch upon the Independent Investigation system called by the majority of investigation officers and general public. If Interrogation is fair and independent, the investigation will then become more effective and reliable. However, the chief of investigators are the key persons to handle the problem accordingly.
Actually, Police Reform should be one of the key national policies. It is the main responsibility of the Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha to aware of these problems. The government needs to address and resolve these critical problems in a comprehensive manner especially on
- (a) Law Enforcement;
- (b) Access to justice;
- (c) Registering the Complaint into the Criminal Justice System;
- (d) Question on Corruption and Abuse of Power; and
- (e) Bribing illegally from the criminal groups.
Moreover, the government should pay more attention on Structural Reform and Crime Investigation System Reform in response to the needs of the society. This also aims to maintain the people trust on justice system which is so important.
Police Watch and its 102 partner organizations reiterate the proposed 8-points Police Reform which had been already submitted to the Prime Minister since October 5, 2017. We call on the Government to consider our concern seriously and ensure that the meaningful implementation can be taken as follow:
- Disband the Provincial Police Region (1 – 9) in order to shorten the line of command and resolve its complication, wasting of resources which had created consequences problems to the police stations. So that more resources (police forces and budget) can be allocated directly to the police stations. This will bring about a more effective and efficient police operation on the ground;
- Transfer the Office of the Inspector General to be under the Office of the Prime Minister (if that is going to handle and Independent Complaint Mechanism). So that the staff do not need to be under “Police Rank System” like the military anymore. Besides, an independent operation in investigation of complaints is needed to ensure fair trial and genuine justice;
- Establishment of independent agency of Forensic Science and Investigation. Expertise and professionalism must be enhanced. Basic qualification of relevant posts must be clearly specified e.g. Bachelor of Sciences (B.Sc.) for the Forensic work while Bachelor of Law (B.L.) is needed for all Crime Investigation work, for instances.
- The Public Prosecutor should be enabled to check and control overall investigation procedure since the beginning especially for those crimes with high penalty (over 5 years imprisonment), and all important or complaint cases.
- Interrogation must be conducted in specific room with the fully equipped Audio-Visual Recording System and be ready for retrieval whenever needed by the public prosecutors or the judges;
- Cancellations of the Traffic Court Award to the Police officers who arrest those who break the traffic rules. The fine must be done fairly by the court rather than the police order like other civilized countries.People’s Alliance for Police Reform (Police Watch) April 1, 2018