National Police Chief Neth Savoeun said yesterday that commune police nationwide have in recent years “caused unhappiness” among the people they should be serving due to their errors and negligence, and should try harder to be better police.
Speaking at the first national conference for commune police at Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich, the police chief said some of the nation’s 12,839 commune police officers – the first port of call for law enforcement for citizens – were letting people down.
“The actions of the commune police, sometimes and in some places, have caused unhappiness and made people lose trust in them because of their mistakes, carelessness in fulfilling their work and responses when handling incidents or requests from people,” Savoeun said.
Such negligence had “made people criticise their bad actions, behaviour and words,” he said. Yet he acknowledged the job was not like it once was, and said that new responsibilities had been piled on the police over the years without compensatory staff increases.
“The amount of commune police has been limited . . . especially in the locations of factories, enterprises, housing developments and the crowded locations where workers live,” he said. “Meanwhile, some commune police have been transferred to other units.”
“There’s a lack of forces, and the result is that they are serving [the people] poorly and not enough.”
As the National Police chief, Savoeun has authority over the nation’s police, but he did not say whether he would move to rectify the problem.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng, who also spoke during the conference, said he was also aware of some commune police failing in their duties, and that he believed that if they did a better job, more people would be happier with the government’s performance.
“With the provision of good services and the resolution [of problems] and responding to requests on time, people will see the police’s capabilities and . . . people will see and believe in the government’s rule,” Kheng said.
“We will continue to work hard to set as a priority the making of more reform in order to make the commune police become a real partner with the community and the people, especially in providing services.”
Meng Sarath, a police officer in Tasek commune in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district, said Savoeun and Kheng were not wrong in their criticism but he believed the police had been improving.
“It is normal for there to be some weak points, and we cannot be perfect . . . but if we compare with the past years, we are getting better,” Sarath said, adding that bad apples among commune police would inevitably spoil the name of conscientious police.
“The individual cases . . . are not the institution, but they could impact on the institution of the police.”