Vol. 5 Num 25 Mon. June 21, 2004  
Front Page

Making quick bucks at cop checkpoint

At around 5:00 in the afternoon Friday, eight members of the armed police battalion and three police constables led by a sub-inspector (SI) set up a checkpoint on the eastern side of Satmasjid Road in front of Abahani Club Ltd. in Dhanmondi.

The launch of the heavily guarded checkpoint is a part of an ongoing government effort to catch criminals on the streets before they strike. The move came with the alarming rise in violent crimes in the city in the last three months.

Armed with AK-47 rifles and US-made shotguns, six members of the smart platoon in combat dress sat on a bench on the pavement and chatted. The rest randomly stopped all sorts of vehicles on the busy road.

The young SI standing by the roadside selected which vehicle to be stopped. Curiously, the SI's interest was mainly focused on vehicles carrying families and apparently innocent looking motorists.

This correspondent spent an hour on the spot and counted 17 vehicles stopped by the police. Of the 17, six were threatened with prosecution but released in the end through 'negotiations'.

As soon as a microbus carrying an old couple and two children was stopped, its driver was asked to produce documents.

"Your tax token has expired, I have to prosecute you," said the SI to the pleading driver. He, meanwhile, loudly asked a constable to bring his 'casebook'.

However, the constable moved about aimlessly, knowing well his officer was not authorised to carry a 'casebook' as he was not a sergeant and it was not his duty to conduct documentary check-ups. In case the SI recovers a stolen vehicle, he is required to take it to the police station for prosecution.

Apparently shaken, one of the elderly passengers intervened. "Please my son, we're in a hurry, we have to go to a wedding, please let us go," he urged. The SI walked off the scene with the documents to make further stops.

Frustrated, the man whispered to his driver and handed him two 100-taka notes. The driver gave the SI the sum, bought their release, got back the documents and drove away.

Additional Police Commissioner SM Mizanur Rahman told The Daily Star that such behaviour is 'totally unacceptable' from special checkpoints. He said about 350 members of the armed police battalion and 'specially trained' cops are manning 42 similar checkpoints in the city.

"We've clearly instructed them to stop only suspicious vehicles and search those thoroughly," he said. They can only ask for documents if the passengers look suspicious and the officer thinks the vehicle might be a stolen one, he added.

"The whole idea to set up such checkpoints is not to check documents but to check on criminals who now largely use private vehicles to commit various crimes," the police commissioner said.