Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Tragic Incompetence Of The Police

For some reason I still keep thinking of Nurin Jazlin.

Her story sounds like all those gruesome tales of crime I've seen on CSI, Law & Order: SVU and Criminal Minds. Except that it really did happen.

A few days back, a friend and I got onto the subject of Nurin and her heartbreaking death. I still have his SMS:

.. Very sad that there are such monsters in our midst who are able to do such things. But as bad is the incompetence of the police that the person has still not been caught. Just sad... :(

Ah yes. The police. What can I say about them?

It is evident that the police much prefer to start scuffles, hurl tear-gas cannisters and spray chemical-laced water on peaceful demonstrators than get necessary investigations done in pursuit of justice.

While the Nurin Jazlin case may have been complicated, there have been clues falling right into the laps of the police, which were promptly brushed off. I posted about the priorities of our government and consequently the police in What Are Their Priorities? last Sunday.

An anonymous commenter left an opinion on how the case could have been handled better by the police.

I checked out Anon's claims and they were indeed true, based on reports from The Star and the accompanying footage of the CCTV.

Federal CID Director Comm Datuk Christopher Wan Soo Kee, who made the recordings public yesterday, said: “The image of the man leaving the sports bag was captured at about 1pm on Sept 16.”

The two-minute footage, captured on a web-camera CCTV system, shows the man in a long-sleeved T-shirt parking his Modenas Kriss motorcycle in front of the Jalan PJS 1/48 Petaling Utama three-storey shoplot, removing his crash helmet and making a call on his handphone.

He is also seen walking towards the shop after the phone call, wearing his helmet and lifting the sports bag that was placed between the motorcycle seat and front basket.

The man then coolly carries the bag towards the building before returning to his motorcycle without the bag and speeding away from the scene.

That phone call was the biggest clue which could have helped crack the case. According to Anon:

Since the video had a time stamp, the exact time of the call was known. Similarly, the exact location, i.e. the "cell", from where the call originated was known.

Technically, mobile phones automatically register and deregister with operator equipment as they are being moved through different cells (which is why we sometimes experience dropped calls when we use the mobile phone in a car and the "handshake" in a new cell we are entering does not properly work).

Mobile phone operators do therefore have sufficient information to determine which of their customers (or more precisely, which of their customers' mobile phones) are in which cell at any given time. This information and the related ability to trace peoples' movements by mapping the registration/deregistration of specific handphones through different cells has in the past few years been successfully used by law enforcement authorities to nab criminals in various other countries (amongst others in Singapore where a group of criminals robbed and killed a money changer and then continued to use the victim's mobile phone).

Similarly, even though this may have required a bit more effort, mobile phone operators would have been able to identify from their usage databases and records which mobile number was used to make a specific call originating from a specific cell at a specific time, particularly if such call was made during off-peak hours at around 2 am in the morning.

Therefore, what the police should have done in Nurin's case was to immediately seek the full cooperation of the 3 mobile phone operators in Malaysia (Celcom, Maxis and DiGi) and to secure the device registration/usage records for the time slot and cell in question. Instead precious time was wasted trying to improve the quality of the video with the help of the FBI in the hope to eventually identify the face of the person in the video and some number plates of vehicles that were caught by the security camera as they were passing by.

As it transpired, by the time that the police finally tried to obtain the necessary usage data from the mobile phone operators it had already been deleted or overwritten with newer data.

Such tragic incompetence. They came SO close to finding Nurin's killer and they just let that golden opportunity pass them by.

I doubt the person making the call on the phone would have been the killer, but under pressure he could have been "persuaded" to divulge the identity of the person worthy of being castrated and fed to the dogs.

Do we have a bunch of blithering idiots on our police force?

I'm beginning to think so. Starting with not acting quickly enough from the time Nurin Jazlin's parents made the missing persons report to thoughtlessly distributing or circulating pictures of her autopsy, the actions of the police fills me with revulsion.

This post is not simply to expose the weaknesses of our police force. It is to remind us that we need to hold our public servants accountable for the service they are expected to render - not brown-nosing politicians but doing their job effectively and with integrity.

Some may say the past is past, bringing this up will not bring Nurin back.

It won't. But God forbid that the killer strike again and the police remain impotent.

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