The mandate of the police to provide security, particularly to the poor and underprivileged community, has suffered badly in the loss of public trust due to unabated politicisation of the traditional law enforcing agency.
A democratic governance study states that politicisation of the police has contributed to the decline in efficiency of their services, especially since Khaleda Zia began her second spell in power in 2001.
However, the study by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) is concerned whether the police could be a de-politicised state institution in the near future, amidst much-talked-about police reforms, which has fallen in pitfall of slack political commitment of democratic parties.
The police reforms, the recently-released study says, would never recommend anything to go against the interest of the ruling party, but did not get political support for their implementation.
Nevertheless, the State of Governance in Bangladesh updated report mentioned that in the name game of police reforms, the government has significantly invested in infrastructure, logistics and equipment.
Police Reform Programme (PRP), supported jointly by UNDP, UKAid & GoB, has few missing parameters. The pressing issue not in the agenda is de-politicisation of the police from ruling party during successive governments since 2001 and reaching the community to ensure security.
The donors have stepped in with much-needed funds for police reform and contributed over $16 million and committed more for the project.
Reform does not seem to be showing enough progress in building public confidence, a former expert with Asian Development Bank remarked.
He said that the National Crime Prevention and Community Strategy points out that "Police services around the world must have effective relationships with those they serve."
Bangladesh Police need to work with communities to fully serve those so the law enforcers should be held accountable, the ADB expert said.
The social scientist who worked with the BIGD study observed that the first term of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) during (1991-1995) and Awami League (1996-2000) saw less politicisation of police than the second term of both regimes (2001-2006 for BNP and 2009-2013 for AL).
The manifestation of the internal governance of the police is prevalent in numerous 'quotas' in the police service. The police service and career is based on party loyalty and regionalism tends to influence promotion and other privileges, including securing the 'prized' postings, the study observed.
During the tenure of Khaleda Zia (2001-2006), the politicisation of police took the form of forced retirement, or outright purging of huge number of police personnel - often blaming them to be loyal to AL.
Immediately the ruling party 'loyalist' were given 'prized' postings, promotions and contractual jobs.
The government recruited 850 sub-inspectors, 90 percent of them who belonged to student fronts of BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami.
In an unprecedented political decision, the Police Regulations of Bengal 1943 was violated by amending the training period from three years (one year in police academy and two years in districts) to one year (six months in academy and rest in district towns). The reason for amendment was to ensure that the jobs of 'loyal' police officers could be confirmed before the next national elections, writes the annual report.
The study also mentions that the government of BNP-Jamaat alliance harassed and discriminated officers from minority religious communities accusing them of being partisan, meaning pro-Awami League which rally maximum minority votes.
The study equally blames the recruitment process of 1,520 sub-inspectors during the Awami League government (2009-2013) for violating standard rules of the Public Service Commission (PSC).
The social scientists observed that the politicisation of the police service have negative impact on the society who seek security and justice from the law enforcers.
Increasingly the victims seeking security faced difficulty in filing cases at police station, and register the First Information Report (FIR), if the case point fingers at political actors. Even the FIR is accepted, the issuing of charge sheet largely depends on the determination of local influential politicians, the study lamented.
Despite demands to reform and replace the 1861 Police Act, the archaic law still exists which failed to accommodate a modern democratic police to be accountable.
The reform has further run aground after the serious amendment of Code of Criminal Procedure Act (CrPC) of 2009. The new act has effectively reinstated bureaucratic control, the hallmark of the colonial era 1861 system, the study observed.
Politicisation of police has fuelled pervasive corruption in the police administration, which has resulted in decline in professionalism and corporate coherence of law enforcing agencies.
The politicisation of law enforcement agencies has de facto institutionalised the privatisation of violence, which allows the ruling party's political fronts and cadres to terrorise the opposition activists, the study remarked.
Consequently, the law enforcers have failed to comply with the rules set for them in police code. The ongoing reforms also offer little hope to de-politicise the police as they are not in conformity with the ruling party, the study concluded.