Policing in Bangladesh has seen little change since the British Raj. Instead of drafting new legislation after Partition in 1947 or gaining independence from Pakistan in 1971, the government retained the Police Act of 1861, devised primarily to deter anti-colonial revolts. Although the Police Act of 1861 is still the primary law of the land, new Police Metropolitan Acts were enacted in each of Bangladesh’s six metropolitan areas (Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet and Barisal) between 1976 and 2009.
Attempts have been made to reform the archaic Police Act of 1861, including the formation of a number of committees and commissions and the drafting of a replacement law under the caretaker government – the Draft Police Ordinance of 2007. However, as is the case elsewhere in the region, these proposals have not enjoyed the requisite political will. Instead, successive governments continue to use the police to further their own narrow interests.
Accountability mechanisms to check police abuses have been set up, but they are largely ineffective. Internally, the Police Internal Oversight body was created in 2007 to monitor and to collect intelligence about the activities of police officers across the country. However it lacks transparency and seems abandoned under its present leadership. Externally, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was established in 2009 but its mandate is limited to requesting reports from the Ministry of Home Affairs with respect to alleged police violations.
At present, police reform is dominated by the UNDP-led Police Reform Programme, which started in 2003 in collaboration with the Government of Bangladesh. It is a long-term capacity building project that aims to support the transition of Bangladesh from colonial-era policing to democratic policing. Phase II of the programme has seen continued efforts to enhance the impact and reach of model thanas (police stations), community policing, gender sensitisation and strategic planning, however it continues to be faced with obstacles and stern resistance from the political executive. Its second five-year phase is to end in September 2014.
The Bangladesh Police is a national organisation headquartered in Dhaka with several main branches, including the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Special Branch (SB), Traffic Police, Metropolitan Police and Range Police. It is headed by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) but overseen by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), which decides upon the police budget, and appointments and transfers of all officers above the rank of Superintendent. Serving directly under the IGP are Additional Inspector Generals (AIGs), who head each major department, and Deputy Inspector Generals (DIGs), who supervise police functioning within each Range.
Bangladesh Police Structure
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