Men with positions of power in office tend to look at their pending retirements with unease, agitated at the thought of losing all the perks and privileges attached to their seats. But National Police Chief Muhammad Tito Karnavian, being the forward-thinker he is, has proactively drawn up a plan to prevent himself from latching on to what would be the past.

“I do not want there to be any post-power syndrome,” he says about his view on retirement, adding that ideally, leaders stayed at the peak of their careers for only up to four years. “The faster, the better,” he adds.

On what he plans to do when his tenure as national police chief ends, Tito points out that he sought to go to an Ivy League university in the US to take up studies in international relations with a focus on violence and terrorism.

“I have never believed in chasing after job titles only,” he says, adding that unlike careers, knowledge will never run out even “until the moment we pass away”.

“I am considering pursuing further studies in the US because I would like to expand my career globally, and I believe that the university I aim to enter will facilitate this,” he says. He points out that being in university would also be less stressful, therefore allowing him to have a more meaningful life.

Besides being a decorated member of the Indonesian police corps, Tito has a track record of being an intellect. He earned a PhD, magna cum laude, from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in 2013 for his exploration of terrorism and Islamist radicalisation. “That study [terrorism] piques my interest because I am simultaneously an academician and a practitioner in that field,” he says.

Tito, who graduated from the national police academy in 1987, has also received a Master’s degree in Police Studies from the University of Exeter in the UK owing to a British Council scholarship.

He adds that strength in formal education lies in its emphasis on scientifically proven knowledge. Tito has even adopted many leadership theories in managing his men, pointing out that having a reserve of conceptual knowledge has aided him in analysing which course of action to make.

“Humans learn from their experience and others. Since a person is limited in time and space, formal education is a conduit through which he or she can expand his or her views,” he says.

One theory he implements in management is that of common interests—a healthy organisation is that which allows individuals to achieve their goas while working towards that of the organisation’s.

“A good leader is one who accommodates the needs of his men. For me, this is the reason why it is critical for leaders to have interpersonal skills and empathy as these are two individual characteristics which will allow leaders to gain loyalty from colleagues,”

Observing his career, Tito has proven that he is speaking from his own experience. Tito rose up the ranks owing to his ability to lead his men in tackling major cases. He first tackled crimes in the capital city, the launchpad to his rapid accent to the peak, including a position in the anti-terror detachment at the Jakarta police.

His various key positions have exposed him to cases that captured the attention of the national and international communities. High-profile cases under Tito’s watch included the murder of then-Supreme Court Justice Safiudin Kartasasmita, terror bombs at the Embassy of the Philippines in Jakarta and the Jakarta Stock Exchange, and the capture of terrorist head Noordin M. Top.

He was stationed outside Jakarta as well, and was instructed to investigate paramilitary terrorist training in Aceh, North Sumatra, and separatist movements in Papua. “My time as the Regional Police Chief of Papua is one experience that stands out. My men and I risked our safety as we had to engage in gunfire with separatists in remote areas,” he says. 

He adds that as Indonesia moves into the future, the country would face an increasing volume of contingency crimes, or crimes triggered by other changes in the environment. 

“The phenomena of globalisation and advancements in information technology, transportation, and communication have created borderless communication between people,” he says, adding that the conditions above prompt transnational crimes.

He adds that the growth of the Indonesian middle class, known for its consumptive power, would similarly give rise to crimes such as the trafficking of drugs, firearms, and humans. “Social conflicts are another contingent crime,” he says. “Despite the rising middle class, Indonesia is still demographically dominated by the lower class. A strong nation is one with a large middle class.”

He notes that to quell transnational and contingent crimes, the Indonesian police and government both need to adopt proactive strategies and cease reacting like a fire brigade. “We need a good political system on one side and a strong government on the other to act as checks and balances for the nation,” he says. 

Tags: Close Up, Tito Karnavian