Bitter Lesson from Kelapa Dua
Last week's riot at the National Police Mobile Brigade's (Brimob) detention center was a slap in the face for our law enforcement institutions.
Last week's riot at the National Police Mobile Brigade's (Brimob) detention center was a slap in the face for our law enforcement institutions. The loss of five young police officers could have been prevented had safety protocols for terrorist inmates been executed with discipline.
Counterterrorism squad Densus 88's strategy to quell the riot is laudable. Although it came a little too late, the operation did manage to end the 36-hour hostage drama without further casualties. However, the officers' lack of transparency is regrettable: even ministers and the President learned of the incident only after it had claimed victims, let alone the general public. In fact, National Police Chief Tito Karnavian's late arrival at the scene must be questioned. He should have cut short his visit to Jordan as soon as he received news of the incident.
The National Police claims that the unrest was triggered by an angry protest by a terrorist inmate from South Sumatra, Wawan Kurniawan alias Abu Afif, who did not receive food sent by his family. It's hard to conceive that such a trivial issue, without any other underlying causes, was the only raison d'etre behind the full-blown violence. The National Police Chief and Correctional Facilities Director-General Sri Puguh Budi Utami must evaluate the entire system for managing convicts and detainees at the Mobile Brigade detention center to get to the root of the incident.
They must delve into all possible causes, including the density of the cells. Over 155 terrorist inmates and detainees are crammed into a limited number of cells. Some of them have actually been tried and sentenced but have not been transferred to prisons.
These cells' over-capacity is made worse by the lack of sufficient officers on guard. When the riot broke out, the 13 officers on duty that day were no match for more than 155 inmates, most of whom had received paramilitary training. The situation went out of hand when the criminals managed to get hold of weapons and bombs seized from various counter-terrorism operations and stored at the center. The fact that these firearms were still there points to the police's utter negligence in managing the center.
The detention center's weak security is beyond unfathomable. First, clearly, there is a serious policy flaw when a detention center housing hundreds of dangerous inmates from the same network is only guarded perfunctorily. Even more so when there are reports that prisoners and detainees held at the center can use cell phones at will. As a result, gloating terrorists uploaded photos of their violence on social media while flaunting the Islamic State banner. Some even managed to contact their attorneys to seek legal assistance.
Secondly, this was not the first time terrorist inmates started a riot at Kelapa Dua. On November 10, 2017, similar mayhem erupted when wardens confiscated several inmates' mobile phones. The inmates knocked down cell doors and the gate, and broke window panes. But the guards managed to take control of the situation because not as many inmates were involved then as in last week's riot.
The National Police's action to transfer all convicts and detainees involved in the riot to the Nusakambangan Prison last week was the right-albeit late-measure. After all, those convicted of serious crimes should have been kept at the maximum-security prison in the first place. Next, these inmates must be investigated thoroughly and the case must be submitted to the prosecution office. They must be given severe punishments as a deterrent.
A domino effect from the Kelapa Dua incident must also be anticipated. An attack on the police the day after the incident shows that terror cells are still alive and active. The siege may be over; however, it may spur hardline groups outside the prison to coordinate.
In the future, besides tightening security, the police must constantly update detailed data on terror convicts in their database. To prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, the government must be able to tell the difference between terror inmates who have moved on from violence and those who are still deeply involved in planning terror attacks. Terrorist leaders who have been caught need to be given "special" treatment so that they do not provoke their followers.