Media reports reveal the shocking existence of a syndicate of members of the police force that are allegedly involved in smuggling Yaba drugs. Reportedly, the syndicate had been using their professional identity as law enforcers to ensure safe passage and sale of illicit drugs. We are given to understand that the shady transaction involves many players including powerful persons wielding authority. In such a situation, the urgency of rooting out the delinquents within the law enforcement agency, in public interest, should be a priority.
The principal task of flushing out the complicit lawmen falls on the police department. It is necessary to look into the causes of damaging deviance for ensuring remedy and public relief. It is also significant to know how suspected unhealthy desires to make quick bucks have impacted the enforcement culture.
Nobody would dispute that when protectors, howsoever small in number, become violators, the criminal justice administration gets a bad name. Therefore, one needs to know if the standards of recruitment in the police have declined over the years and undeserving candidates have managed to get entry through unfair means.
The fear is that undesirable appointees, once in uniform, would most likely deviate from the expected norms of behaviour and commit unlawful acts. A relevant query would relate to the suspected neglect of training, especially of the lower ranks. The question is, has there been a distinct lack of emphasis on the various aspects of police behaviour?
In reality, we may have to appreciate that the responsibility for alleged failure to improve the standards of police recruitment and training fall on both the political executives and the police professionals. Lack of appropriate action from them has to be replaced by strong proactive response.
Under the circumstances, recruitment standards must be improved by strictly curbing alleged corrupt practices at the time of recruitment. Officers with a record of commendable honesty and integrity should be entrusted with the responsibility of conducting police recruitment. This is important because the crux of good policing is the efficient and amiable presence of a well-qualified, trained and motivated constable. The need is to embark upon training programmes for the grooming of sensitive enforcement professionals.
There should be a concentrated drive to make it difficult for a dishonest person to remain in focal position. Superior officers have to set examples by maintaining their private lives above board. Simultaneously, service conditions should improve commensurately with the performance of a policeman.
While corruption of law enforcers should be dealt with an iron hand, the objective of securing attitudinal change must not be ignored. In addition, proper environment has to be created so that policemen can perform with a sense of pride and fulfillment.
In view of the above, this writer urges the Inspector General of Police to vigorously pursue the criminal case that must have been registered against the officers arrested on charges of drug smuggling. Evidence available prima facie indicates that it should not be difficult to submit a charge sheet in a few days and assist the court in punishing the guilty, thereby denying him any scope for a re-entry into the service.
It is also felt that criminal acts by policemen will definitely lessen and stand discouraged if officials following law and straight legal methods are not sidelined. Preference of officials that resort to illegal methods to achieve so-called results will always be counter-productive because such desperate officials will naturally indulge in unlawful acts, considering such acts as compensation for their extra zeal.
Interestingly, in Bangladesh the opportunity cost of being corrupt is very low; if the cost of losing one's job is very low compared to losing the corruption related money, then the rational choice at times may be to resort to illegal practices. Additionally, if alleged extra-departmental pressures replace professional considerations and penalty for deviance becomes ineffective on account of extraneous interference, there will always be incentive for inefficiency and corruption.
The considered view is that a punishment and reward-based system would be critical to achieving the goal of minimising corruption. A strong accountability mechanism coupled with commensurate compensation policies could be the essential elements of a desirable system.
The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.