"I think a police force is the best institutionalization of what just war should be about. But then the arresting agent is not the same as the judging agent. In war, those two are the same. I am extraordinarily sympathetic with the police in this country, because we take them from a social class usually just above criminal class, put them in the most complex social situations, and then we blame them for becoming hardened. Give me a break. What we need to do is to ask ourselves, "What kind of social cooperation do we need that can make it possible for people to be called to the police function of the state in a manner that they will have some confidence that they will never have to kill anyone?""
(Sojourners' Interview with Stanley Hauerwas. Emphasis added)
Hauerwas was referring to his home country, America. What kind of social coorperation for Malaysia? I don't know. But this I can share with you.
In some cases, under the directive of politically motivated rulers, police officers are commanded to arrest citizens whose peaceful demonstration threatens the rulers' position. Are these officers doing the right thing? Are they doing the good thing?
These officers are paid to carry out orders. But if this is the only principle that guides the police force, then the officers are not that different from thugs or mercenaries. Both groups are guided by the same principle.
The vocation of police officer, like every other jobs, is not merely to earn a living. Some think that the duty of the police force is to keep the society in order. But that is missing the point. An orderly society without justice is an authoritarian state. And an orderly society is not necessarily peaceful and harmonious.
The primal allegiance of the police force is therefore not to keep order but to reduce and prevent injustice by taking the country's law as a guide.
However the law by itself is not an arbiter for the good. What is legal could be non-good while what is illegal could be good. It falls on the police officer to see through each matter by themselves, guided by their moral commitment. If their moral commitment is only to their own stomach, then the higher an officer's rank, the more bloated the officer's stomach.
In other words, the police is in the moral business. That means every police officers need to grapple with their cases through the ethical and moral categories.
The subtle encounter between the thug in the police force with the police officer in the mob portrays the struggle between legality and morality in the movie Infernal Affairs.
Therefore the office of the law enforcer must not be perceived as one which anyone with a SPM certificate ('O' Level) can apply to be a Constable. Such trivial procedural recruitment of police officer, accompanied with the access to firearm, poses tremendous danger to the society. The murder case committed by police officers though C4 explosives is telling.
Rulers need subordinates who are easily manipulated, who lack moral capacity, to run errands for them. At times, arresting dissenting peaceful voices. At times, murder. All the time, silencing any possible threat to their throne. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the application to be a police officer is not that difficult. Rulers need such manpower.
The moral capacity of the police officers has something to tell us about the moral capacity of the rulers, their superiors. It's all moral business.
By the way, have you watch Children of Men?
Theodore: Julian? I haven't seen you in twenty years. You look good. The picture the police have of you doesn't do you justice.
Julian: What do the police know about justice?