Peoples’ Expectations from the Police in a Democratic Country

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Parvedge Haider

The police are the most visible manifestation of the government authority responsible for public security. In a democratic country like Bangladesh, general peoples’ expectation is to lead a secured life with basic human rights. The police force in a democratic country has to be multidimensional and professional. It may not be able to politically neutral, general peoples’ rights have to be ensured at the same time. People expect that police force will be publicly accountable, subject to the rule of law, respectful to the human dignity and sometimes imposes force against the problem creators under certain limited circumstances just to ensure the safety-security of the nation.

Politics of Bangladesh takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament.  There are ups and downs in the political dynamics of Bangladesh since her independence in 1971. Although this country has badly suffered by political instability for decades, according to Transparency International Bangladesh(TIB) report, law enforcing agencies are the most corrupt organizations in the country[1]. Police takes the major share among all the law enforcing agencies. In the recent past, some of actions of Bangladesh Police are projecting an impression that the general people are no more safe in their hand. Massive corruption at all levels, lack of professional training and lack of moral spirit are keeping them away from their responsibilities. Instead of becoming a service oriented organization, it has become a concern of fear.

In a democratic society, it is expected that Police will be devoted to the ideology that the accused is innocent until proven guilty by a court, as well as he will be proceeded through an investigative process. Interviews by the police must be conducted in which a person can understand appropriately and the subject will be informed about his rights and charges laid against him; any statement that is gained through torture or use of force is not approved for the submission in the court. It is a duty of police to clear rules and guidelines to any person who has committed some crime. The Police must also be sensitive and adaptable to the special needs of people, such as children, women and the disabled. That means, in a democratic environment, people should be able to enjoy their basic rights.

Societies experience a continual tension between the desire for order and liberty. There is a paradox in the fact that a democratic society needs protection both by police and from police. Restrictions imposed by the police need to be accepted with a good spirit. However, a police whose power is too great is also a danger. Bangladesh is a highly densely populated country where people are not habituated to remain within the practice of law due to their necessity, urgency and sometimes lack of commonsense.

Key Principles of Policing in a Democratic Society

In a democratic society Policing means a force that is publicly accountable, subject to the rule of law, respectful of human dignity and that intrudes into citizens’ lives only under certain limited circumstances. Police Forces are not supposed to be self-contained or disconnected from the people. Openness to the free & poor should be the biggest ideology of policing in a democratic society. The key principles of policing might include the objectives, upholding the Rule of Law, Police Ethics and Human Rights, Police accountability and transparency[2].

Aristotle expresses that “Democracy exists when the free & poor, being a majority have authority to rule”[3]. In a democracy, the power to make laws is held by a branch of the government called the legislature[4]. They try to gain support for a law and organize a vote through discussion and compromise. The majority of members must approve a law before it can be put into effect.

Policing in a democratic society also includes safeguarding the exercise of democratic activities[5]. The police must respect and protect the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, association and movement, freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention and exile, and impartiality in the administration of law[6]. It is a priority of police to avoid the use of force, or try to at least minimize it to a minimum. Firearms should only be used when there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury to an individual and/or community[7]. Their main duties are to:

  • Maintain public tranquility and law and order.
  • Protect and respect the individual’s fundamental rights and freedoms.
  • Prevent and combat crime.
  • Provide assistance and services to the public.

Police will enhance the legitimacy of the country if they demonstrate in their daily work that they are responsive to public needs and expectations and use the authority of the State in national interest. Police is responsible to uphold the Rule of Law. While pursuing these objectives, the police should operate in accordance with the domestic law and the international law enforcement standards and demonstrate commitment to the rule of law in practice. All the legislations and written policies governing the police should be clear, precise and also accessible to the public.

Police Ethics and Human Rights

In order to live up to the public’s trust, police must adhere to a code of professional conduct and demonstrate professionalism and integrity. This code should reflect the highest ethical values, expressed in prohibitions and imperatives of police work. The police have particular powers to temporarily deprive people of their freedom, limit the full enjoyment of their rights and in extreme circumstances to use even lethal force. Therefore, police must perform their duties in accordance with universally agreed standards of human rights and civil and political rights. In all cases the protection and preservation of life must be their highest priority.

Police Accountability and Transparency

In a democratic society, police should consider themselves to be accountable to the citizens, their representatives, the State and the law. Therefore, their activities ranging from the behavior of individual police members to the strategies for police operations to appointment procedures or to budget management must be open to scrutiny by a variety of oversight institutions. The prerequisites for gaining public support are to ensure transparency in police operations and cultivating communication and mutual understanding with the public.

Assessing the present standard of policing in Bangladesh, the following actions are recommended:

  • Effective reporting and review procedures that are activated automatically, every time injury or death is caused by the use of force or fire arms.
  • Transparency is a key factor in gaining public support and it also provides a mutual understanding between the public and police. To ensure better understanding and public acceptance of police the following measures might be taken to achieve transparency and communication:
  • Providing the public with crime reports about police operations.
  • Enabling the public to access to the police service.
  • Creation of open-ended forums for discussion.
  • Effective community-based policing; not like the way it is being conducted now a days.

The police should perform with professionalism under the rule of law. In a democratic country like Bangladesh, there might be political interferences and interventions, police should give priority to the wellbeing of people. There should not be any contradiction in ensuring the rule of law by force and upholding the basic rights of the people. The practice of freedom of speech, avoiding unnecessary movement restrictions and patient hearing of the general people will bring people to a comfort zone. Police agencies must also have systems of supervision in place to assess the performance of their officers. In the democratic society, policing requires quality control of the service delivered to the public. Police supervisors must also take responsibility for the performance of officials and must verify compliance with codes of conduct and human rights standards through regular unannounced and independent inspections.

Community-Based Policing Projects are the strong way of augmenting an effective policing in a democratic environment. Community outreach activities are designed to reduce crime and promote public safety.

In a democratic society it is expected that human rights issues are well considered while formulating the rule of law. Bangladesh is a democratic country; the Government agencies are state controlled organizations that act independently to carry out the policies of the Government. The challenges of implementing the professional policing in Bangladesh might be addressed by creating some reforms in the police policy so that all members are encouraged to perform efficiently according to the prescribed rules without any fear. A deliberate reflection of human rights aspect in all levels of training and day to day practice might bring a standard shape of policing in a democratic environment not only in the policy but also on ground.

Bibliography:

Peter K. Manning, Democratic Policing in a Changing World
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, arts 10 & 11, https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
Lawful Use of Firearms in Self-Defense, https://www.washingtongunlaw.com/lawful-use-of-firearms-in-self-defense
The Democratic Policing in Action, https://www.lawteacher.net/free-law-essays/administrative-law/the-democratic-policing-in-action-administrative-law-essay.php

 

[1] TIB report 2018-19, https://www.ti-bangladesh.org/beta3/images/2020/annual_report/TIB-Annual-Report-2018-19.pdf
[2] The Democratic Policing in Action, https://www.lawteacher.net/free-law-essays/administrative-law/the-democratic-policing-in-action-administrative-law-essay.php accessed on August 8, 2020.
[3] The Democratic Policing in Action A source: http://nz.paper-market.com/free-essays/the-democratic-policing-in-action/.
[4] DK Society & Beliefs: The Law, https://www.factmonster.com/dk/encyclopedia/society-and-beliefs/law , accessed on August 8, 2020.
[5] The Democratic Policing in Action A source: http://paper-market.com/free-essays/the-democratic-policing-in-action/ .
[6] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, arts 10 & 11, https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/ .
[7] Lawful Use of Firearms in Self-Defense, https://www.washingtongunlaw.com/lawful-use-of-firearms-in-self-defense .
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