Police Reforms in Bangladesh: CHRI Policy Note on Bangladesh Police
In 2003, the first serious police reform initiative in Bangladesh was started by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The UNDP Bangladesh Country Office got involved in critical discussions and negotiations at both formal and informal levels with the key stakeholders of security and criminal justice sector in Bangladesh, particularly with the Bangladesh Police. The UNDP put together a Needs Assessment Report and concluded that “an accountable, transparent and efficient policing service in Bangladesh is essential for the safety and well being of all citizens, national stability and longer-term growth and development, particularly the creation of a secure environment which is conducive to consumer and investor confidence.”
Although 2007 saw commendable momentum on police reforms, not much happened in 2008. Initially, the Caretaker Government (CG) appeared to demonstrate the political will necessary to improve police functioning. With the assistance of the Police Reform Programme (PRP), the Bangladesh Police put together the Draft Police Ordinance, 2007. The ordinance sought to update police legislation by creating accountability mechanisms, limiting illegitimate political interference of police operations, and professionalising law enforcement. However, the ordinance stalled and was never promulgated before the CG left office in December 2008.
With the overwhelming election of the Awami League on 29 December 2008, the big question was: what will the democratically elected government do to improve the performance of the Bangladesh Police? Unfortunately, as of the end of 2009, the Awami League has not done much in the way of reform. Before getting elected in 2008 the Awami League included the following in its electoral manifesto: “In order to provide security to every citizen of the country, police and other law and order enforcing agencies will be kept above political influence. These forces will be modernised to meet the demands of the time. Necessary steps will be taken to increase their remuneration and other welfare facilities including accommodation.”
In an effort to reassess the current approach to police reform, and what direction it should take in a more democratic context, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative organised a consultation in July 2009, in conjunction with the Institute of Governance Studies (BRAC University) and the BRAC Human Rights and Legal Services Programme, that sought to formulate specific recommendations on how the Bangladesh Police can improve its delivery of services. Click here to view the recommendations.
These recommendations follow shortly after the International Crisis Group issued their report on Bangladesh police reforms where they stated, “If the government fails to move beyond the current modest reform process, the democratic transition could falter should deteriorating security give the military another chance to intervene, using, as it has in the past, the pretext of upholding law and order to justify derailing democracy. Deep structural reforms– including a new police law – and major additional resources are necessary to create an effective and accountable service. Above all, it will take political will –which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League led government is sorely lacking – and a vision of the police as something other than a tool of political control and a source of patronage.”