With the recent
ISIS, sorry, Daesh threats and Jakarta bombing, the police have been beefing up security in public places like malls, trains stations, etc. But so many flers around in different uniforms! Who is who? How do we tell the cops apart from the security guards?
Actually the Royal Malaysian Police (aka PDRM) is made up of many branches with quite specific duties. For example, the Criminal Investigations Division, handles crime like murder, robbery, house-breaking and such. Then you’ve got the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU), the flers you see during Bersih, whose duties cover crowd control and riot suppression. On toppa dat you’ve got different ranks, from constable to IGP level.
So altogether, the whole PDRM has 113,426 officers and personnel at this point. Easy to get confused right? Here’s how to tell them apart by their uniforms… from minor duties to BADASS!!
P/S: Look for our TL;DR section in blue if you’re speed-reading like the cars in Polis Evo… #CILISOSlovesyou
1. Traffic control guys
The traffic police has prolly one of the most recognisable uniforms in Malaysia. This is their staple:
- White long-sleeved shirt
- Sam Browne belt (the black belt that goes diagonally across their chest and over their right shoulder)
- White gloves
- White helmet/dark navy blue cap with emblem
- Black riding pants with yellow strip down the sides
- Riding boots
- Reflective yellow vest
- Whistle in left pocket
There’s no mistaking them… BUUT here’s the thing, security guards in Malaysia have similar-looking uniforms:
Still, it’s possible to tell them apart, unless someone is seriously detail-deficient. 😛
There’s a rule for security guards’ uniforms in the Private Agencies Act. They cannot resemble the police force too closely. So who decides whether or not a security guard’s uniform can jalan? The Ministry of Home Affairs lor. Any baju design for employees of a licensed private agency must be sent for approval first.
It’s the same worldwide, though in some countries, they make it even easier to identify. The Netherlands requires security guards to have a ‘V’ symbol on uniforms to advise the public they’re dealing with a private guard, not the police.
As for duties, let’s explore what traffic police are allowed to do, so you know what you’re dealing with. They control traffic, obviously, but they also set up roadblocks to catch offenders, saman people, and so on. And YES, they carry guns.
The rule about police using guns is that it’s allowed see the need. For instance, they’ll need to use it to protect lives, defend themselves, dismiss a riot, repel an attack, and stop prisoner escape.
Unfortunately, it allows cases like Aminulrasyid’s death to happen (he was a 14-year-old boy who was shot dead by the police while fleeing from them in a car). This is a problem many other countries have managed to control, like Germany and Japan for example. Japanese cops rely on their black belt judo skills or batons instead.
Anyway, the same Malaysian gun rule goes for…
TLDR: Aiya, their uniforms very recognisable wan – white shirt, black riding pants with stripe, and riding boots. The only group you could mistake them for are security guards. Even so, security guards’ uniforms cannot closely resemble the police force’s by law.
The reason why we say ‘Police++’, is because the RMP has so many different divisions, but often their uniform looks pretty much similar across the divisions. There’s the criminal investigations division, narcotics narcotics division, and commercial crime division.
You’ll see these guys wearing the standard dark navy blue shirt and dark navy blue cargo pants tucked into military boots. Basically it’s all very dark navy blue from head to toe, and we’re just glad it’s not purple, hurhur. They also wear a name tag on their right with a police shield above it, and the word ‘Polis’ on the other side.
Then they wear dark navy blue berets with the silver police force emblem on the left. But for headgear, you might see various types being worn. Besides the beret, the police wear peaked caps. They’re different for men and women. You might see policewomen wearing dark navy blue tudung under their caps or berets. As for Sikhs, they wear turbans too as religion requires, but all headgear have the PDRM emblem.
See, that’s what makes our police force so cool! They respect different cultures and give room for variations in uniform. Err, but not customise super kau-kau until likdis la:
Ok, but let’s not forget the ranks also. There’s a way to tell what pangkat a policeman holds if you check out his insignia. Lower ranking police wear theirs on the right sleeve of their uniforms. Sub-inspectors and higher ranks wear theirs on epaulettes on both shoulders. Click here for the full chart.
But giving a policeman the Manhattan once-over might seem confrontational la, so just sneakily glance at them if you’re really curious (or just ask, jeez). The ‘heavier’ their uniform looks the higher they are up the rank. Here’s IGP Khalid’s insignia:
TLDR: Your standard cops will be in dark navy blue uniform from head to toe and wearing either a beret or peaked cap. You can also tell their rank part based on their insignia.
3. Crowd controllers
Can you feel the bad ass level heating up? Yep, the uniforms from here are gonna get heavier.
The Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) is the name we always read about in the news when it comes to maintaining public order, but did you know there’s also the Light Strike Force (LSF) and Public Order and Riot Unit (PORU)? They specialise in crowd control, riot suppression, and well… Bersih rallies, hehe.
So ahead of the main FRU unit, the LSF will be deployed first to handle small crowds. If things get wilder and more outta control, in come the FRU guys. PORU on the other hand is not part of the FRU division, but the RMP’s General Operations Force. They’re based in locations where there’s no FRU bases. Click here to watch PORU 23 C company based in Simpang Renggam, Johor, training.
These guys are super recognisable too. Their riot gear looks a lot more padded up than regular police because things could get rowdy during rallies and these guys gotta be ready for anything. Most of their uniform is dark, but then there’s that standout colour which is red. Their helmets are red, their shields have a red strip with the word ‘Polis’ on it, and they also wear red berets, unlike the other police.
Our friend in Malaysiakini told us there’s a way to differentiate between FRU, LSF and PORU guys by their unit insignia or marking on their shields and vehicles. Speaking of vehicles, the FRU drive red vehicles, the LSF and PORU, blue.
We saw pictures of riot control forces around the world with similar transparent shields. We found out they were transparent for a reason. So that the person holding it can see incoming objects thrown and they can quickly use their shield to deflect the object.
So yeah, the FRU look pretty intimidating and all, but what are they capable of doing to the public? Well, we know the regular police are allowed to shoot in certain situation, but the FRU shoots water cannons and tear gas. However, don’t think people are guaranteed to be safe around them – they are allowed to use firearms in cases where protesters are using firearms, but the FRU has not used firearms in the 60 years it was formed.
You may or may not know this but the FRU was actually chosen by the UN to go to Timor Leste in 2003 to control riots in the country which just became independent. They sent 125 men over. Cool, right?
And we found an interesting uniform design on Behance by Omar Shamsuddin. It’s like what he envisions them to look like by 2030:
Shoot, if they ever really change their uniforms to this one, then they deserve to be bumped up even higher than the next category, which is…
TLDR: Also wearing dark navy blue from head to toe, the thing that makes the FRU stand out is their signature RED. They wear red berets, red helmets, and carry transparent shields with red ‘Polis’ logo. Their uniforms also more beefed up than regular police coz they gotta handle riots.
4. Terrorist fighters
We’re sure ugaiz have seen some police wearing uniforms that look like SWAT. Got helmet la, shin guards, bulletproof vests and big weapons!! The look that says… we.mean.business. 😎 You’ll usually see this look on paramilitary and special forces of the RMP, so the guys who usually wear this are:
- Special Branch
- Counter-Terrorism Unit which is made up of the Pasukan Gerakan Khas and Unit Gempur Marin (UNGERIN)
- Special Tactics and Intelligence Narcotics Group (STING)
If you click on the links above, there are quite specific descriptions on weapons oso.
So the paramilitary and special forces are beyond normal policing. We’re talking about when the poo hits the fan, you call in these guys. The Special Branch deals with spying, extremists and threats to the nation, so yep that would include Daesh.
Similarly, Pasukan Gerakan Khas tackles terrorism, but they’re also trained for high-risk events like hostage and barricade situations. For example, in 1975, they were the guys deployed to save hostages from the Japanese Red Army in the AIA building along Jalan Ampang, KL. The best part is… ZERO casualties! Within this team there are 2 detachments – the Unit Tindakan Khas (UTK) wear maroon berets, while VAT 69 wears sand-coloured berets.
UNGERIN is slightly different coz they’re the maritime guys. They fight pirates and terrorists, and operate in the coastal waters surrounding Malaysia. STING on the other hand goes after drug kingpins and syndicates. Not the ikan bilis flers…they go after the big sharks of the drug trade.
Ok so what are these special forces allowed to do when it comes to a showdown with the bad guys?
Remember Bentong Kali, the gangster who was femes for killing people for the fun of it? CILISOS wrote about him in our supervillains article. Anyways, the Pasukan Gerakan Khas sent like 200 men to take down this one guy, coz he was pretty darn near terrorist level, terrorising the whole of KL! When they cornered him in a house in Medan Damansara, they shot Bentong Kali in the head, thus ending his reign of terror. In other instances, the cops shot Mat Komando (also featured in our supervillains article) in the head and left ribs, killing him.
These are just two examples of the cops shooting dead their targets during a standoff. For more, click here. Just last year, Home Minister Zahid Hamidi gave security forces permission to shoot on sight, when faced with intruders encroaching into Malaysian waters.
TLDR: So their standard colours are…yep, you guessed it, dark navy blue. At least they have variations la, like camo combat uniforms and each division has different beret colours.
5. Undercover cops
CHUPPP! Undercover is badass?? How? Why? Uhm well, quite badass wut, coz the bad guys will never suspect they’re cops. They’ll never see it coming. And think about it, you’d have to be badass to dare fight the terrorists without armour! Jeng jeng jenggggg…
So which badass RMP divisions is this that goes undercover in plainclothes, who are their bad guys, and what powers do they have? From what we found, the Special Branch guys and Unit Tindakan Khas (UTK) guys under Pasukan Gerakan Khas go plainclothes.
However, even district policemen have worn plainclothes doing simple duties, macam watching out for street crime in crowded places like KLCC, and… get this… to SPY on traders who simply increase goods prices. 😯
So undercover cops cover a range of baddies la, whether terrorists, gangsters, pickpockets, or ahem, greedy traders, so it seems.
Now here’s the potong stim part about being an undercover cop, how do the public know they’re really cops or impostors? Because fake cops have become such a common thing in Malaysia. To protect yourself, DO NOT stop for plainclothes cops. Quickly call the nearest police station to confirm if they sent their officers to your home, or if you’re driving, get to the nearest police station where it’s safe.
TLDR: Undercover cops wear…er…plainclothes la.
Actually dang easy to ‘play cop’ wan…
Just buy a fake uniform and you could fool unsuspecting members of the public. Wait…did CILISOS just advise me to pose as a policemen? NO WAY!! Impersonating a policeman, or any civil servant for that matter, is totally illegal, ok. It’s an offence under Section 170 of the Penal Code and could land you two years in jail or fine (no amount stated).
Unfortunately, cop impersonation has become a serious problem in Malaysia.
Not only does it give cops a bad image, it’s also harmful to the public. One guy who pretended to be an ‘Inspector Vijay’ conned 5 women out of RM20,000. When the game was up, the real cops seized a police uniform, a belt with the police emblem, two fake pistols and a walkie-talkie. Howdaheck did he get all those things?
Apparently it’s really easy to buy fake uniforms. For just RM2,000, you can buy an outrider jacket, helmet, riding boot, siren and blue beacon. Vests and batons can buy from uniform and tailor shops. Based on our experience, it shouldn’t be that easy to buy cop stuff, because we once tried asking Outpost in a mall to buy a police iron-on badge. They demand to see ID wan. But when The Star reporters visited shops in KL, they didn’t even ask to see anything.
Yet, in Penang, it’s a way different story…. there are 4 shops authorised to sell the stuff, but when reporters checked at 3 of them, the shopkeepers were having none of their nonsense without proving their identities.
“It is strict here. Even if one police shirt button is not accounted for, my permit can be revoked. I am shocked to hear that uniforms can be freely bought in KL.” – Wan Putra, 5.11 Tactical Store manager in Penang, The Star
By law, manufacturing, supplying, selling, or owning articles meant for police officers is illegal. According to Section 89 of the Police Act, a person could be jailed up to 6 months, or fined maximum RM500 if caught.
So how should you react when you encounter a phony cop? On top of the tip we gave (in previous point) if you come across plainclothes ‘policemen’, KL Police Chief Comm Datuk Tajuddin Md Isa said, ask for his authority card. If the policeman refuses to produce his authority card, take down his badge number, name or vehicle licence plate number, then call a police station.
“Everyone has the right to ask a policeman to show his authority card. Call us immediately if you don’t get it.” – Datuk Tajuddin Md Isa in The Star