Over the decades the police have constructed for them a negative image in general. It is partly because of some rogue members among them and partly because theirs is a thankless job. Ever since the Yasmin and Seema rape and murder cases involving men in uniform, their notoriety has added lewdness to the long list of their aberrations. So, public repudiation of the law enforcers' performance has been unreserved.
Still a few members of a rare breed not only make a bold statement by their excellent act but also pleasantly surprise the nation. One such move by the police has been reported from seven upazilas of Pabna district. In a country where police verification means arranging a sumptuous meal for the officer responsible on arrival and also greasing his (usually he) palms with bribe money of handsome amount, an assistant superintendent of police (ASP), Sheikh Selim managed to break free from this age-old deplorable culture.
He instructed his subordinates to visit the residences of the 37 successful candidates in the 35th Bangladesh Civil Service (BSC) examinations with sweets and bouquet. None other than the candidates and their parents were more surprised by this gesture of the law enforcers. When all the candidates and their parents or close relations readied for parting with some amount of money, the police arrived with the well-wishing token gifts. Even ASP Sheikh Selim, whose brainchild this surprising move was, made sure over cell phone that they received the gift and regretted for not being able to personally congratuate them.
Well, the move surely smacks of some gimmick. But at times there is need for such small gimmicks. So far as the sweet and bouquets are concerned, those cost the police some amount of money. Where form did they manage it is important from a puritanical point of view. But in the context of Bangladesh, some concessions for the source of the money spent on token gifts may obviously be allowed.
The police gesture is important for its symbolic value. Seikh Selim, the police officer, had to get approval from his boss before embarking on this venture. Involved in this case were nothing less than the verification of and reports on 37 young men and women (if there were female candidates also) who are all set to take responsible positions in different areas of the country's affairs. If at the start they are introduced to a system of bribe giving and taking, it is an initiation that bodes ill of their service.
Perhaps, the ASP had an intention of giving them a clean start so that they remember when their turn comes to crucial decision-making in exchange for ill-gotten money or not. Undeniably, corruption in this country has ever remained endemic and bureaucracy is not averse to this malpractice. In fact, there is an unwritten law for setting aside certain percentage of commission for people wearing the mantle of bureaucracy.
On that count, the ASP's small step has the potential of becoming a giant stride for the police and by extension for the BCS cadres. But unfortunately, there is little chance that the police will follow this shining instance elsewhere in the country. If they did so all across the country, the gift and the congratulatory message that it carries along with it would have turned into a sort of movement. All successful candidates would have got a practical lesson for their future assignments in various branches of the civil service.
The ASP now serving at Pabna is not alone in charting a different course. At least two other officers have to their credit achievements that can make others envious. A superintendent of police, now promoted to a deputy inspector general, when served at Savar, undertook the challenge of eliminating crimes among the Bede community (gypsy) of Porabaripara. Not only was he successful in persuading members of the community to give up drug peddling but also managed to rehabilitate them on khas lands. He stopped child marriage and made arrangement for job-oriented training for youths so that they got employment. Perhaps the police officer has got the greatest reward for his service through this social work.
Another police officer, an assistant commissioner of the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan, who was gunned down by the terrorists in the shooting at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan was committed to the humanitarian cause in his own special way. He founded a school for physically challenged children in Manikganj, the place of his birth and bore the cost of all 36 children. He had a plan to establish a hospital there and for its finance took lease of land for banana cultivation. His life was cut short and with it dreams that only men like him can nourish in their bosoms.
These are men in uniform with beacons for the rest of the police force. Now an increasing number of members of the police are found guilty of involvement in criminal acts. The police high-ups admit it and also confirm that the derailed are awarded punishment. But cleaning the entire Augean stable will be an enormous challenge. Sure enough, the police have their own constraints which need to be addressed in order to bring about a reform aimed at making them pro-people.