Are police unaccountable?
Shamsul Huq Zahid | Published:
January 17, 2016 22:02:47
October 25, 2017 01:39:24
'Macher raja ilish ar desher raja police' (Hilsha is the king of all fish and the police are of the country), chairman of the National Human Rights Commission Dr. Mizanur Rahman said last Saturday quoting a police official who allegedly tortured Bikash Chandra Das, a Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) employee, brutally Friday morning at Jatrabari in the capital. Bikash is now receiving treatment at Labaid Hospital.
"This is a dangerous statement," he said.
'A sense of impunity has taken over the law enforcement agencies. They think nothing will happen to them or nobody will touch them if they torture people', the NHRC chairman told the waiting newsmen at the hospital premises.
Only a few days back, the police had meted out similar treatment to a Bangladesh Bank Official Golam Rabbi, who is now undergoing treatment at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).
In view of the public uproar created over the two incidents of police brutality on two innocent people, the police have been compelled to go for some actions, no matter how cosmetic in nature those are. They have put on suspension the police officials involved in the incident and launched separate probes.
Courtesy of the media, the latest incidents of police brutality have drawn the attention of the people and the power-that-be. But scores of identical incidents are taking place everyday across the country and, in most cases, money remains at the centre of all the cases of police excess.
The motto of a section of people joining the police force, it seems, is not to serve the people but to amass wealth by any means, fair and foul. They remain on the prowl to catch usually weak and innocent type of people and squeeze money out of them on various pretexts. Their victims are verbally accused of committing crimes such as drug peddling, smuggling, hijacking or being involved in terror (jangi) network. They are initially asked to pay a substantial some to secure release. However, the deals are later made on lower amounts. Physical torture remains a very usual element of this so-called crime busting activities.
The patrol vans of different police stations and temporary check posts erected at different points are, allegedly, used extensively for collecting bribes through coercive means. This is, however, an open secret.
During the periods of severe political troubles, the police usually enjoy sweeping powers to help keep the situation 'under control'. However, in recent years the unscrupulous section of police officials have been taking advantage of that power to arrest people indiscriminately just to squeeze out money from the latter under coercion.
During normal times, the dishonest section of police resort to the usual ways of mobilizing funds for themselves from both criminals and innocent people.
Despite all these unsavoury happenings, the people in general have not lost their faith in the police totally. Most people do believe that the majority in the police force are doing good work and only a few errant ones are earning bad name for the entire force. Undeniably, most people have reservation about the quality of policing. Yet they find the police as their last resort.
The conscious section of the population has become increasingly worried about the current state of recruitment of police. It is widely alleged that two factors---money and political affiliation--- are lately getting priority in the selection of police constables and officials up to assistant sub-inspectors. If the allegation is true, one cannot expect the recruitment of competent people to take place at the lower level of the police force. An individual recruited as a police constable or an assistant sub-inspector in exchange for a hefty bribe would always try to recoup the money he or she paid as bribe. Thus, s/he would get the habit of asking bribe from civilians at every opportune moment. And political loyalty tends to make a police official or anyone engaged in public service biased.
In fact, constables and officials up to sub-inspector level usually operate at the field level. Inspectors and officials above that rank move out of their offices only when their presence is required at any place of occurrence. So, it is hard to expect proper service and judgment from the police personnel who have been recruited through unfair means. Moreover, political use of disciplined forces like that of the police mars the very purpose of raising it.
The need for reforming the police force has been underscored time and again. But successive governments have overlooked the need since the present state of the police serves their purpose better. However, they have, apparently, forgotten the fact that such a force, if allowed to enjoy an extra dose of freedom, might turn into a monster. So, it is high time the government started looking at the issue in right perspective. If it really decides to make any change for the better, it should start with reforming the police recruitment process since this is the area where the rot begins.