The need to police our policemen

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Syed Badrul Ahsan Syed Badrul Ahsan


This is not the first time the police in Bangladesh have misbehaved with journalists. The picture of a police sergeant holding on to the shirt collar of a photojournalist in social media since Wednesday afternoon is an ugly sign of the arrogance of power which many holding positions in the government have repeatedly displayed. In the image under consideration, the ferocity of the police officer reveals itself through his visage. He has managed to snatch the camera of the photojournalist, who works for the daily Manabzamin, and is now holding the photojournalist in a tight grip. The impression is one of a policeman having come across a criminal and, finding him, will not let go.
Not many years ago, a similar picture of a fiendish policeman about to strike a respected and veteran photojournalist, who was only doing his job, was splashed in the media. That picture went all over the world, prompting speculation that the resultant embarrassment would lead to a reform in the police department where etiquette and sobriety in behaviour were concerned. Unfortunately, as subsequent incidents of police behaviour, not only towards journalists but also to people across the spectrum, have demonstrated, nothing has changed. We might now hear of this policeman, the one we are speaking of, being ‘closed’, whatever that means, by his department. Will that be enough? What if the picture had been the reverse? What if the policeman had been held in that vise-like grip by someone not a policeman? We can only imagine the consequences.
No, it will simply not do to condemn this officer on social media and in editorial comment. Neither will it be enough to have protest demonstrations organized at and before the press clubs across the country demanding proper punishment to be meted out to the offending police officer. What must happen is for the police department to take clear, transparent disciplinary action against this officer. Such a policeman does not deserve to be in the service of the state, which is why his entire background — of how he came to be part of the police force, whether he was appointed on considerations other than the purely professional, et cetera — must be checked. This officer’s training before he formally joined the force does not seem to have been adequate or does not appear to have had any impact on his attitude. His action has shown patently the shame he has caused to descend on his department.
One expects the Home Minister, the secretary of the Home Ministry and senior police officials to get into a proper mode of action on the incident. Any attempt to explain away the police officer’s outrageous behaviour will leave a very bad taste in the mouth. ***

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