Police Recruits Could Face Minimum Standards: Sar Kheng

Minimum educational standards for National Police recruits, including literacy requirements, may be introduced to create a more effective force, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said on Tuesday.

Previously, some officers were hired because they knew how to handle a gun, even if they could not read or write, Mr. Kheng said during a ceremony to award honorary doctorates to officers at the ministry in Phnom Penh.

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Interior Minister Sar Kheng, left, awards an honorary doctorate to Sok Phal, director of the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, at the Interior Ministry in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The minister went on to reveal that more than 3,000 members of the National Police force had previously been found to be illiterate, without offering additional details, except to say some of those had already retired.

“In the future, maybe those who fail the high school national exam won’t be eligible to take the National Police exam,” Mr. Kheng said, referring to the entrance exam for officer training. “Our reform has reached this point.”

Last year alone, he said, 4,000 passed the entrance exam for the Police Academy of Cambodia in order to pursue officer training, while 35 students failed the academy’s exit exam, raising concerns about their initial acceptance. Improving general knowledge would help prepare them better, Mr. Kheng said.

Police officers “need to know how to use computers, need to know how to operate information technology,” the minister said. “This doesn’t mean that everyone needs the same level of education.”

Still, there is a higher level of skill needed today than in the past, Mr. Kheng said. “If we compare to the past, we have already walked far.”

Outdated communication and record-keeping practices among police officers have created a disparity between police activity and official government statistics in the past.

In January, data posted to the National Police website showed that police tallied only 23 rapes in Phnom Penh last year despite an overall increase in crime by 20 percent, prompting one women’s rights group to claim it was because police were worried about their ranking compared to their peers.

Proposals for more rigorous vetting of National Police force applicants are part of more sweeping reforms to the Interior Ministry, which has seen the reshuffling of employees among departments and bureaus.

“We reorganized them all,” Mr. Kheng said during Tuesday’s ceremony, adding that despite a surplus of employees, no positions had been cut. “We are focusing on reforming the institution.”

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