National Police anti-drug chief Mok Chito yesterday said his officers need to begin inserting themselves into a stage of investigations until now the sole domain of the judiciary – drug testing.
Speaking at an anti-drug trafficking meeting, Chito suggested that lab technicians charged with testing drug samples were at risk of being tempted to skew results in a way that would aid criminals, adding that courts are already too lenient with drug offenders.
Chito said he wants police to personally verify all test results “in order to avoid suspicion falling on the laboratories”.
“Otherwise,” he continued, “it could be that the laboratory reports that the drugs are of too poor quality and too low quantity to prosecute, or that the suspect deserves a lighter sentence. We need transparency from everyone.”
Chito went on to say that he wanted to track test results against sentences handed down by the courts. Senior police figures have long bemoaned what they view as the courts’ tendency towards soft sentencing when it comes to drug-related crimes.
Responding to Chito’s comments, Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin suggested yesterday that the top drug cop had failed to grasp the principle of the presumption of innocence.
“Generally, police are just like the public. When they arrest a perpetrator, they want to punish them severely,” said Malin. “When they arrest them, they consider them to be the perpetrator. But for the courts, people who have been arrested are suspects.”
And while Chito implied that laboratory technicians could not be trusted, Meas Vyrith, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD), the authority now responsible for testing, said yesterday evening that similar dangers lay in giving police officers access to test results.
“Drug test results are like a knife with five blades,” said Vyrith. “When we can maintain their confidentiality, there will be justice. However, if, for example, after [an officer] receives test results, they go to meet the perpetrator [and explain] that their sentence will be five to 10 years, they can use this to do business.
“This is a very big concern, that [police] will use the result to extort money from [suspects], therefore it must be kept secret.”
Vyrith did say that, despite the lack of legal provision for test results to be passed to police, he would do so if it meant helping officers gauge how much of the material they seize in raids contained drugs, or how much dealers have padded out their wares.