Here’s a long and true story… happened on Tuesday, 15 January 2008 from around noon until late night. The locations and events were true.
Around lunch time, a rather old citizen mechanic was asked by a car owner to fix and get the owner’s car which was stranded somewhere in a public parking lot. Unfortunately, a miscommunication happened and the mechanic accidentally tried to open another car with the same look just across the street. Guess what happened next…
The mistaken car park in the South Jakarta Prosecutor office. Before the mechanic realized his error, one of the prosecutor official yelled “Car thief!” at the mechanic and dozen of prosecutor official in their official uniform punched and kicked the mechanic. Now, try to imagine this: prosecutors, part of the Justice Department, wearing their uniform, punching and kicking a senior citizen who accused stealing a car without even gave the mechanic a chance to explain himself and they are supposed to be the one who make sure that justice was served in this country. Great.
The mechanic bad day was not ending yet. After being punched and kicked brutally, they (prosecutors in uniform) dragged him to the security room and questioning the mechanic. Then, the mechanic was sent to the police station.
Police. The arm of justice. Yeah, right. What happened in the police office was more mind blowing. The mechanic was dragged into the interrogation room and, this one was pathetic, tasered again and again to force the mechanic to confess. Tasered… taser was created to defend oneself, not as the torture device, right? Yeah, right. And to confess, confessed what exactly? That the mechanic was a car thief? He’s not. He was simply mistaken the car. OK, the mechanic had his own fault for not checking the car plate first. But according to the mechanic, which he told later, he already asked permission to the parking guard and got the parking guard permission. Well, no use. Still the police tasered, punched and threaten the mechanic to get his ‘confession’.
The car owner finally get notified about the accident (but not the beating and torturing part) in the afternoon. He thought lightly about the issue at the moment because well, it was a simple mistake, right? A couple of ID checks, few phone calls should made everything all right. Right?
It turned out the police made things complicated than that. They said the mechanic was not supposed to be release because:
- He got to be contained for 24 hours OR,
- The owner of the mistaken car filed a complain if the mechanic accidentally broke the car lock OR,
- The family of the mechanic ‘bailed’ him OR,
- Whatever… No idea.
So there were many and different reasons for the mechanic’s contained situation. Most of them were ridiculous anyway but how about made things more interesting? Read it until the end then, it will get more absurd as ever.
The car owner arrived at the police station after dark. He felt like a moron because he was believing that the police would treat the mechanic well and humanly. He had a good faith with the police. He used to be a ‘school security patrol’ when he was at school. He knew there were a lot of corrupt police but this case was not about money – it was about mistake. He got to admit that he was wrong. Wrong about the police and especially wrong about the justice.
When he came to the police station, the mechanic was sitting in the office of one of the officer with one officer. The mechanic looked stressful but physically quite well except for a couple of bruises in his face. The police was acting like he was the ruler of the world. Arrogant, full of pride and snobbish. Typical.
So, the car owner directly asked what should be done in this particular situation. Before the officer started talking, the car owner put a tape recorder and took out the notepad to write important things. The police officer gave a long speech about this and that, how things were really put the mechanic in a very deep trouble and so on. The office even emphasized about the owner of the mistaken car, he said the owner was one of the highest rank in the prosecutor office as if that fact will add some value other than a fact that a high rank of public servant was allowing an innocent man to be beaten and contained?
The car owner was furious and irritated of the officer’s answer. But he thought anger would not solve the problem, so he took a deep breath and started talking about the facts.
Now, here comes the most absurd parts:
- When asked about the name of the high rank prosecutor, the officer said he did not know and did not care. He just wait for that prosecutor to come to the police station to file a complain.
- When asked about the car plate number of the mistaken car, the officer said he did not know and did not care. So the car which was about to be stolen, an evidence, was not identified and was out there somewhere.
- When asked about how long the mechanic would be held, the office said he did not know and reasoned it was depend on the ‘situation’. He asked if someone would like to take responsibility if the mistaken car owner filed a complain then he would try to release the mechanic as soon as possible.
So, the owner of mistaken car was not identified, the identity of the mistaken car was not identified – only the color and the brand (even with the brand, the same kind of car had 3 types, which of course was not identified either) and the time of containment was not rigidly set. A really great situation.
The car owner told the officer that he would be the one who will take the responsibility if there were any damage to the mistaken car’s lock. The officer told the car owner to write down the note of responsibility. The car owner wrote the note himself, these are the quotes:
… Will took responsibility if the mistaken car’s lock of the car, which plate number was not known, was broken because of the mechanic’s act and the mistaken car owner, which was unidentified, asked for a compensation…
It was a ghost car with a ghost owner.
The officer read it and made remark about maybe sometime will visit the car owner when he was in the neighborhood. Politeness or a threat? Nobody knows, just wait and see. The officer then told the car owner that he would need to contact his superior for the approval of the note. He said he could not guarantee the time since probably the superior was not at the office. It could take 5 minutes to the whole day, according to him. The car owner said he would wait until the mechanic released. So the officer went out for about 10 minutes.
When he returned, he said everything was fine, the mechanic would be released right away. Great, except one thing. All of the belonging of the mechanic (ID card, some money and his motorcycle’s key) was confiscated and stored in the drawer of one of the officer and he was away. The officer told the mechanic to retrieve his belonging on the next morning. The car owner said he would be the one to retrieve it but he need the name of the officer who held it. The officer refused to tell the name of the other officer but suddenly a person came into the room and asking for that particular officer while mentioning the name, great. The car owner wrote down the name of all three officers in that room. It could come in handy one day.
Couple of minutes later, the drawer’s officer came in with a polite behavior and a very bright smile. He tried to be friendly while later on, the car owner learned that officer was the one who tasering the most and even spoke the harshest threat to the mechanic. The office then opened his drawer and handed out all of the mechanic’s belonging.
After some chit chat about everything, including marriage life and so on (Yeah, that was pointless, wasn’t it?), the car owner and the mechanic walked out of the room, walked out of the police station, get the mechanic’s motorcycle and went home.
During the fiasco, the car owner wondered, what was the point of all this hullabaloo. The prosecutor officers were brutally oppressive, the police officers were tasering people around, the mistaken car and its owner were not around and not filing anything yet, the mechanic was held up and get tortured, the car owner time was wasted, the energy was depleted and the point was?
Some people pointed out that these were strategies used by the police officer to extort some money. Well, in this case no money was spent useless – except maybe the taxi fare. The officer did not ask for money at all. Maybe they just enjoyed tasering people.
Is there anyway to file a complain if we experienced this things? Especially about the brutality of the prosecutor officers. Indonesian already knew the police corp is the most corrupted and brutal institution in this country. Where we supposed to report about this incident? The police? The court? Or these kind of accidents just happened and we just have to forget it? Seems like my last writing foreshadowing these kind of accidents.
To make things fair: The beating was witnessed by a lot of people but the tasering was told by the mechanic only. As far his relatives and friends knew, the mechanic was an honest man.
Note: Bringing a tape recorder and a notepad were a good way to deal with government or public official like police officers. Mentioning the word “journalist” also helps especially if you had press contact or a press corp yourself. Had a connection with Committee of Law Support and Corruption Eradication Committee was also a great assets.