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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 182
March 19, 2005

This week's issue:
Human Rights Analysis
Law Alter Views
Rights Investigation
Rights Monitor
Rights Corner
Law Watch
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Law alter views

Community policing: Some food for thought

J. Hasan

In the background of poor record in human rights protection and deteriorating law and order situation in Bangladesh, community-policing strategy adopted in recent past in some selected districts by Bangladesh police was comparatively innovative. Although successfully applied in many countries in the world, in Bangladesh it was relatively new. Not as a new crime prevention unit, community policing was adopted, under a donor-funded project, by Bangladesh Police as transition from traditional or professional model of police service to a more community-involved one. In this strategy, the community is not simply viewed as a passive recipient of police service but as an active element in the decision-making process of local police units, which affects priorities, allocations and implementation of police services.

Bangladesh is a densely populated country and it has limited resources for which it cannot increase number of police personnel. This has been the reason for developing community policing in Bangladesh. Community police units were set up in selected urban and rural areas. The structures of community police unit are as follows:

Clients/associated bodies of community police units are local educational institutions, business associations, private organisations, bank, insurance, NGO, village police, village defence party (VDP), voluntary organisations, journalists, interested community members.

The objectives of community policing in Bangladesh are:
*To establish rule of law in society
*To establish a society free of crimes
*To prevent misuse of narcotics substances
*To prevent anti-social activities
*To create local people's awareness and participation in maintaining law and order
*To assist law enforcement forces in maintaining law and order by providing information on crimes and criminals
*To develop good relations between police administration and people
*To perform social services

How community police units are formed
There is an advisory council at district level. It consists of District Police Superintendent, additional District Police Superintendent and Assistant District Police Superintendents. This council can co-opt important and interested persons in the committee. This council sits at least once a month to review law and order situation of the district and to take necessary steps.

The thana (local government administrative unit) consists of one convenor, one treasurer and six members. The union or ward unit consists of one convenor, one treasurer and six members. This unit provides decision/instruction after reviewing law and order situation at thana level. This unit also decides requirement of patrol police and how patrol police perform their functions.

The number of members of highway/road units is to be decided by thana unit.

At the very grassroots neighbourhood level, a patrol team of 12 persons consisting of members from ansar, village police, village defence party, village security guards is formed. This number may be more or less depending on requirement. This team basically patrols in neighbourhood and provide information to police to stop illegal activities.

Responsibility of local police station
A police sub-inspector in particular police station, under supervision of the officer-in-charge of the station, usually forms relevant committees, maintains records and involves community patrol units in maintaining law and order. He organises meetings of various units, interacts with community people, motivates and co-ordinates. The officer-in-charge of the police station monitors law and order situation and maintains liaison with district advisory council as well as among units. He also takes immediate necessary step as soon as he gets any information on law and order from community people.

Patrol and information activities of community units are financed by community people by voluntary contribution. The budget is usually decided by concerned unit. Money is generally required for purchasing small equipment, allowances for patrol groups or for incentive for good performance.

Activities of community police units
*Area/locality patrol
*Inspection of office/residential areas
*Motivation and awareness raising
*Community watch/monitoring
*Questioning outsiders/people of suspicious behaviour
*Providing information/reporting to local police stations about identified criminals, drug addicts, anti-social elements, extortionists, warranted persons
*Taking instant measures in crime/law and order situations before regular police intervenes
*Providing caution to law violators and petty offenders
*Helping pedestrians in following traffic rules and discipline
*Summoning notice/orders issued from courts in the locality

How community policing is different
In traditional policing in Bangladesh, police acts on reactive approach after getting complaints/information from people. But in community policing, police works with community people in maintaining law and order and preventing crimes in proactive approach. In reactive policing, the relation between police and people is sort of patron-client relationship while in community policing, the relation is of involvement, co-operation and participation. As a result, community people participate in policing spontaneously. In traditional policing, police is treated as law enforcement agency while in community policing, they are treated as service-provider. In traditional policing, police acts through incident response while in community policing, police acts through identification and preventive measures. Traditional policing is run by State resources while community policing is run by community voluntary resources. In traditional policing, the scope for getting information from people is very limited while in community policing, members of community are expected to come forward voluntarily to provide information to police.

Development perspective
In socio-development indicators like enrolment in primary schools, immunisation, maternal mortality, sanitary awareness, malnutrition, family planning etc., Bangladesh has made considerable progress in last more than two decades. It was largely because of government and NGO efforts for involving people and communities at the very grassroots delivery level. The Asia Foundation, in collaboration with some local NGOs, has recently introduced a project on community policing in some selected areas of the country. In the perspective of deteriorating law and order situation and human rights violations, policymakers should think of community policing as a potential effective tool for improving the quality of police service and mainstream it in governance strategies.

The author is a human rights activist .


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