Law enforcement in Bangladesh
The citizens of Bangladesh have much to celebrate in terms of cultural and linguistic freedom and miraculous achievements in terms of economic growth, literacy, health, education and diffusion of technology. But if ordinary Bangladeshis have been waiting for the cherished emancipation of mind (a la Robi Thakur) or sanctity of life and humanity (a la Nazrul Islam), unfortunately they just have to keep waiting. Meantime, their country is getting increasingly mired in the abyss of lawlessness in all forms, political and non-political crimes and violence, seething corruption, plunging morality, broken governance and self-serving politicking.
Is it possible to clean up such a gigantic mess? Yes, if only the Bangladeshis have the will to do so.
The four essential ingredients of law enforcement are: independence, resources, motivation, and (efficient) administration or management.
Independence: Absent the independence of the law enforcement agencies and the judiciary in all senses of the term, the ruling regime of any given time will legislate conveniently and enforce laws selectively to weed out opposition forces and to promote the interests of allies, and this will be done without judicial and law enforcement protection for the vast majority of citizens affected adversely and unjustly. Instead of bringing about this independence, ruling regimes in Bangladesh continue to exploit and abuse the lack of it.
Resources: Sufficient resources are necessary first for prevention and then for adjudication of unlawful acts. The size and strength of the law enforcement forces as well as strict and prompt adjudication of the unlawful acts are significant deterrents while offering worthy justice for the victims. Four types of resources are needed for this purpose: well-trained and sizable force of foot soldiers, capable managers/leaders, supporting physical infrastructure (arms, technology, facilities, vehicles, etc), and sufficient financial resources to fund the previous three.
What is sizable varies depending on the size of the population to be served, the geography of the land and the spatial distribution of the population mass, the current frequency, nature and severity of unlawful acts, and the targeted speed of improvement in the law and order situation. For Bangladesh, although a large and low income young population is its key resource base, this very critical and vast resource is widely exploited by political machineries and criminal gang leaders to outmuscle and/or sterilize law enforcement in committing a wide array of unlawful acts at the ground level. To deactivate and deter such practices, an unusually large, well-trained and well-equipped law enforcement force is called for, given the gravity (kidnaps, murders, hijacking, torturing, controlling of strategic areas, institutions and processes, etc), the extent and the pervasiveness of unlawful acts. Dire circumstances call for drastic actions.
It is recommended that Bangladesh starts building a vast force of foot soldiers to reach a target of perhaps 100 law enforcement agents for every 1,000 residents. Very importantly, this force should be built wherever possible by attracting/drafting young members around the age of 18 to 30 years. Such a mega force will expedite the process of improvement (the speed of success will act as a significant deterrent as well) and turn the pool of recruits, the political apparatus and gangsters prey upon, against these very exploitative and infected organizations. Of course, this strategy will also generate much needed employment for millions of low income families.
The mega law enforcement force needs to be trained, equipped, inspired, directed, engaged and managed properly. Thus the complements of adequate physical infrastructure and managerial and leadership know-how will be vital. Further, the entire process of building and operating this force has to be as free as possible from political interference and influence. For these purposes, the building and operational leadership of the proposed mega force should perhaps be contracted out to an international consortium of countries with no participation from the immediate neighbourhood of Bangladesh. This will help procurement of donor financial resources needed to finance the venture as well as worldwide state of the art technology and know-how in law enforcement.
Motivation: Bangladeshis can ill afford to keep waiting for a motivational leader to lead the nation out of its severe moral decadence and beaten down governance. That leaves Bangladesh with non-inspirational motivation to work on. By and large this means the promise and delivery of a decent life for the foot soldiers and managers and their family members. Accordingly, the law enforcement forces need to be offered better than average economic benefits, educational and health benefits for the family members, social status via better job grades comparable to armed forces, employment security, career progress, and full force of protection of law and finance against powerful political and criminally engaged forces.
Administration: As the well-financed and well-equipped mega force start cranking the wheels of law and justice across the land, and as the transfer of foreign technology and operational management continues to flow in, it is only a matter of time that efficient indigenous administration will follow. While the public administration of Bangladesh has it share of governance problems, it is however an unproductive pastime at best to bash them for the widespread failures in law enforcement. They remain the solitary force of continuity in a nation marred by political upheavals and ceaseless turbulence, and they remain the apparatus of delivering services with so little resources and so little appreciation, financial or otherwise. For a better administration of law enforcement, transparency and accountability of public administration need to be enhanced, but the malignant practice of influence peddling by political regimes needs to be eradicated as well (M Chaudhury, How to establish clean governance, Financial Express, September 8, 2012).
To conclude, rule of law is of paramount importance to deliver the cherished land to the people of Bangladesh. This requires freeing the judiciary and law enforcement from the executive organs, and building a mega force of law enforcement that is well trained, resourced and motivated, and led by an efficient administration.
Mo Chaudhury is a professor of Practice in Finance at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.