Police week awards trigger criticism

Muktadir Rashid | Published at 12:56am on February 08, 2019


Prime minister Sheikh Hasina cuts a cake during the launch of Police Week 2019 at Rajarbagh Police Lines in Dhaka on Monday. — BSS photo

This year’s police awards drew flak over the selection process as some cops bagged the award citing trifle matters or for providing regular services while some were awarded for the arrest of the acclaimed photojournalist Shahidul Alam and protesters of the road safety movement.
Talking to New Age, a number of young officers said that there were some common faces who were being regularly awarded, while selectors also took away a few awards.
The total number of awardees this year stood at 349 this year, which broke all past records. Cops, mostly senior officials in commanding positions, bagged most awards in four categories for their services and bravery. And only 11 of them were female.
The government awarded 40 police officials and rankers with Bangladesh Police Medal, and 62 others with President Police Medal in ‘recognition of their extreme bravery and heroic work’ in 2018. The government also awarded 104 police officials and rankers with BMP (services), and 143 others with PPM (services) for their ‘praiseworthy contributions in detections of important cases, maintaining law and order, dutifulness, honesty and discipline.’
Most officials citied regular policing like arresting suspects, seizing firearms and ammunition, and counter extremists to get the awards while arresting student movement or road safety campaigners led award many others.
Additional deputy commissioner Kazi Shafikul Alam of Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s detective branch (north) was awarded with Bangladesh Police Medal (services) for his role in the arrest of acclaimed photographer Shahidul Alam.
The police medal book says that Shahidul Alam was arrested for his ‘anti-state propaganda on Al Jazeera TV.’
Shahidul Alam was arrested on August 5, 2018 hours after his interview with the Al Jazeera, supporting the students campaigning for road safety following the death of two students on Dhaka road, on July 29, 2018.
Alam’s arrest triggered local and international condemnations. He remained incarcerated for over a hundred days.
Supreme Court lawyer Shahdeen Malik said that some of the awards were certainly for courageous acts, and added that arresting a world renowned photographer like Shahidul Alam or leaders of peaceful student movement would not by any stretch of imagination indicate gallantry or courageous act or be considered prevention of dangerous crimes,’ he said.
‘Such awards belittle and devalue the contribution of courageous and dedicated police officers,’ said Shahdeen.
Imam Hossain, joint police commissioner (logistics) at DMP, was awarded with BMP (services) for his contribution for arranging sound systems for their programmes and for being in charge of food supply for prime minister Sheikh Hasina when she was on an official visit during last year’s police week.
Rights organisation Ain O Salish Kendra’s former executive director Sultana Kamal said that the awards basically are meant to recognise the services rendered by the police to benefit the people.
But this year, she said, some of the awards simply undermined people’s interest.
‘It undermined the constitution and laws,’ she said, adding, ‘I wonder if we are living in a monarchy where king awards according to his own whims.’
Over 15 of the officials and rankers were awarded for spying and arresting student leaders campaigning for reforming the quota system in government jobs, and protesters in last year’s road safety movements.
Deputy commissioner Ashikur Rahman of DMP was awarded with President Police Medal (services) for his role in the arrest of Muhammad Rashed Khan, joint convener of Bangladesh Sadharan Chhatra Adhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad, in Bhasantek area of Dhaka on July 1, 2018.
Kusthia’s former police chief SM Mehedi Hasan was awarded with the BMP (services) for recording ‘sabotage cases’. According to his citation he arrested around 263 people over 44 cases filed against the suspects.
Transparency International executive director Iftekharuzzaman said that awards were supposed to recognise exemplary professional discharge of duties to promote rule of law, and to ensure protection of people’s fundamental rights and ensure justice.
Unfortunately, he said, some of this year’s awards appear to have done just the opposite.
‘Abuse of power, violation of law and denial of justice were awarded too,’ said Iftekhar.
He said he was afraid that such awards would undermine the value and prestige usually attached to it.
‘Bad precedent has been set, risking further abuse of power and excessive use of force by this highly important law enforcement agency,’ said Iftekhar.
This year, the number of awardees has reached 349 since as all DIGs, 64 SPs and commanding officers of RAB units were awarded for their contributions.