Police indulgence in crimes alarming

Iqbal Mahmud | Published: 00:02, Sep 29,2020


From drug dealing to extortion, arrest on false charges to botched-up investigation, custodial torture to killing in the guise of ‘gunfights’ — the police department has been facing mounting allegations of late with a section of it reportedly indulging in crimes.

Further incidents of police involvement in errant activities were exposed after the killing of former army major Sinha Mohammad Rashed Khan on July 31 in Cox’s Bazar in police shooting, for which 11 cops, including then Teknaf police officer- in-charge Pradeep Kumar Das were arrested.

More and more allegations have started to surface against policemen since Sinha killing in which cases were filed against cops on charges of extortion, crossfires, custodial torture, bribery and land grabbing.

Criminologists and rights activists find that major problems lie in the police recruitment, posting and transfer processes.

Police mostly face ‘soft punishment’ like withdrawal from the place of posting and suspension from job even for major wrongdoings. Some of the accused officers even enjoy better posting later, said rights activist Nur Khan.

Former caretaker government advisor M Hafizuddin Khan on Monday told New Age that administrative reform in the police force was essential for getting rid of corruption and averting crime involvement of a section of force members.

There must be a separate unit or department out of police influence to investigate and take action against the force members’ crimes, said former comptroller and auditor general Hafiz.

Complaints against law enforcers are nothing new and police face numerous allegations.

According to police headquarters data, 235 cases were filed against 357 members of the police across the country in 2019 alone.

Of them, the DMP had the highest 31 cases where 43 cops were accused. Cox’s Bazar was second with 13 cases against 35 policemen, followed by Satkhira where eight cases were lodged against 20 policemen.

The ‘complaint cell’ set up in 2017 at the police headquarters has since received several thousand complaints against cops.

PHQ data show that complaints against the force members have been increasing every year.

Nearly 10,000 cops faced departmental punishment in 2015. The figure was 13,503 in 2016, 14,658 in 2017 and 14,315 in 2018, the data show.

Of the punished, 83 were fired in 2016, 36 in 2017 and 74 faced termination in 2018, the data showed.

The accused and fired police members were lower-tier officials, mostly from constable to sub-inspectors.

Allegations of torture, extortion, intimidation, crossfire threats and extrajudicial  killings have now been surfacing against many police officers since the killing of former army major Sinha Mohammad Rashed Khan.

Over a dozen police station officer-in-charges across the country have been withdrawn while nearly 100 officers, from superintendent to sub-inspector, have faced cases on charges of extortion, custodial torture and crossfire threats since then.

Amid allegations of involvement in various crimes — including extortion, killing in the name gunfight and smuggling of yaba pills against a section of policemen — all police members, over 1,500, in Cox’s Bazar, including the superintendent of police, have been replaced recently, nearly two months after Sinha was shot dead by police inspector Liaqat Ali at a police checkpost on Teknaf marin drive.

There is no let-up in allegations of police involvement in numerous crimes, particularly allegations were mounting in recent months, said criminologists.

Dhaka University criminology professor Zia Rahman said that the police force was yet to get rid of its repressive nature. 

A section of accused members of the force get soft punishment and quick posting, which gives an impression that they can escape punishment and accountability after grave crimes, added the professor.

In a recent development, five policemen of Moulvibazar’s Shayestaganj police station, including the officer-in-charge, were closed on September 20 for their alleged involvement in taking bribe and releasing a man during his detention in Habiganj.

The district’s senior police officers said that the action was taken as the allegation was primarily proven to be true.

A case was filed, in another incident, against 11 people, including a former officer-in-charge of a police station.

Earlier, a constable and another youth were arrested while snatching a mobile phone and money from three people in Outpara area under Basan Police Station in Gazipur city on September 19.

A case was filed against Chattogram’s Boalkhali police station OC Himangshu Kumar Das with the Chattogram metropolitan magistrate court on September 14 on charge of falsely implicating a lawyer in two cases.

A section of errant cops’ involvement in drug businesses has been a long-time issue.

A Dhaka Metropolitan Police surveillance last June found that about 20 police officers of Tejgaon, Adabar and Tejgaon Industrial Police stations were involved in drug trade.

DMP chief Shafiqul Islam on Saturday announced that they were in the process of sacking 26 cops, ranking from constable to sub-inspector, as they failed in drug tests.

Shafiqul told New Age that they were strict against any drug or crime involvement of policemen.

Police personnel involved in drug trade or use will be facing the same consequences. The move to sack the 26 personnel will send a clear message to their colleagues, he added.

In an alarming incident, police investigators faced huge criticism last August for arresting three youths and forcing them to make confessional statements before the court on charge of abducting and killing a teenage girl who returned home unharmed and alive.

The High Court also summoned two investigating officers of the case.

According to the August 6 case, the girl was abducted on July 4 and the police arrested three youths — Abdullah, Rakib and Khalil — who later confessed that they had abducted, raped and murdered the girl.

But the girl returned home unharmed on August 23 and said that she had willingly left home, married a young man and lived in a rented house in Narayanganj city after July 4.

Relatives of the arrested persons alleged that police investigators might have used torture to coerce them into confessing to the offences.

Former inspector general of police Nurul Huda finds that one of the major flaws remains at the supervision level from police authorities.

There occurs lacking in supervision in some instances. When some police officers and members are withdrawn for offences and involvement in crimes, there must be departmental and criminal offence actions against them on merit. He must be under surveillance for a long time before getting further posting, said the former police chief.

Nurul Huda said that the recruitment and posting processes must be freed from corruption and political pressure, or else it would be difficult to improve the situation.

Rights activist Nur Khan said that the pattern of police involvement in criminal activities had also been similar for years and the police administration must be freed from corruption to improve the situation.

‘The police chain of command is very fragile and there is no proper monitoring from supervising authorities. Corruption in recruitment and positing must be checked, he added.

When approached, PHQ spokesperson and assistant inspector general for media Sohel Rana could not reply over the issue instantly. 

About the allegations against police getting involved in crimes, he later said that the departments concerned were informed about the issue and he could reply after getting their responses.

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