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A paradigm shift in policing in time of pandemic

Published : Thursday, 9 April, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 313
Al Asad Md Mahfuzul Islam

A paradigm shift in policing in time of pandemic

A paradigm shift in policing in time of pandemic

Policing in our planet has rapidly been changing. The conventional culture of doing things in law enforcement mechanism has also been changing, locally and globally. This rapid replacement has been claiming because of the new emerging global common enemy. Bill Gates warns in a Ted Talk in 2015, these enemies are not a little boy or fat man, or not any new nuclear nomenclature, these enemies are virus-related germs, that can simply paralyze our planet.  Meanwhile, to me, the future war will be not like State versus State rather it will look like Planet versus Virus. In such a situation, the role of policing has appealed for a multiplier effect in societies and communities, both in-home and abroad.
Still, there might have few questions, why police is required to provide food supplements to low-income citizens in these days of pandemics? Why police will play a role in managing dead bodies and their funerals? Why police is disinfecting streets through their water canon? And of course, why police are so tough and beating people violating human rights?

The answers to these questions may be theoretically candid, practically vague. However, in the USA in 2006 the 'Pandemic Influenza Symposium' by the Police Executive Research Forum unveiled some answers in Andrea M Luna and Corina Solé Brito Elizabeth A Sanberg edited publication CRITICAL ISSUES IN POLICING SERIES: Police Planning for an Influenza Pandemic: Case Studies and Recommendations from the Field. In the forward, it wrote, why would a flu pandemic be a police problem, as opposed to a public health problem? There are several reasons: Police may be called upon to enforce quarantines, to provide security in hospitals swamped with patients, and to ensure that vaccines-when they became available in limited quantities-could be delivered to those with the greatest need for them. Along with these reasons, it also dug out the very practical but biggest reason, for the readers of this article, it is depicted here as it is, perhaps the biggest reason why a flu pandemic would be a police problem lies in the answer to this question: Whenever anything bad happens, whom do people call? The local public health agency? How many people even know the name of their public health agency, much less its phone number? When bad things happen, people call the police. Public health agencies would take the leading role in dealing with a flu pandemic, but police would be involved from start to finish, if only because the public always looks to the police to answer their questions and solve their problems.

Karl Roberts, WHO Health Security, Law Enforcement and Policing Consultant, in his recent article 'Policing the pandemic: Managing the police response to COVID-19 Coronavirus' suggested several policing activities during a pandemic in general, but in particular enforcing pandemic curfew, ensuring the supply of medical services and transportation of public health staffs and implementing public health orders. Policing in pandemics extends to homeless persons, asylum seekers, and immigrant people. In this time, though quarantine and curfew may reduce traditional crime, a new type of crime can be increased, for example, theft of medical supplies, selling of fake medicines, organized theft of empty urban houses, business premises, and even domestic abuses. Police may face many uncertainties and myriad situations including new and unfamiliar responsibilities. Europol, the European Police Organization, news release can be quite relevant. On 06 April 7, 2020, it released that a corona crime suspect of 6 million euro face masks and hand sanitizers scam arrested in Singapore with their intervention.   Predicting such scenarios in mind, Karl Roberts defined it as 'policing pandemics represents a new paradigm in policing'.

Policing Insight, an online platform, formed an International Advisory Board (IAB) with police professionals, practitioners and police experts across the world, to ensure policing contributions to combat Covid-19. It also underlined some concerns and major issues for a different period of policing actions. This includes internal organization and associated issues for police, additional policing activities, potential changes in crime patterns, effects of the criminal justice system with implications of policing.

In COVID-19 circumstances, the role and perspectives of policing have dramatically been reshaping globally. On April 02, 2020, Damien Cave and Abdi Latif Dahir reported How Far Should Police Go in Enforcing Coronavirus Lockdowns? In, The New York Times saying that police are empowered with tough new laws, orders and public pressure to help to address pandemic issues. Despite having a debate on police power in this reassured role, Police are empowered to fine in Australia, Canada, Israel, UK, are using new technologies in the UK, new approaches in India and aggressively empowered in Kenya, the Philippines even to shot dead to ensure social distance and homestay.  

In another online journal, The Conversation, in the article, Why Police will be crucial players in the battle against coronavirus detailed about new kinds of police actions, activities, and roles with new laws. For example, A new bill was enacted in New South Wales that allows a police officer to arrest a person who the officer reasonably suspects of contravening a public health order in relation to COVID-19 and returning the person to their usual place of residence or their place of detention.

Recently, The Guardian wrote 'Police and health officials to get powers to detain under UK coronavirus bill, this bill passed by the UK Government also allows police to fine up to 1000 pounds to execute public health orders. According to Global News, the Peterborough Police Service, Peterborough County OPP and Peterborough Public Health organized joint press release and under the Emergency Measures and Civil Protect Act (EMCPA), they can fine up to 1000 Canadian Dollars and up to 500,000 Canadian Dollars to Corporation owners and Directors. In TIME Magazine, titled Police Departments, Sheriffs' Offices Across the U.S. Grapple With COVID-19's Impact on Public Safety and Their Own and it can be quoted here as The Police Department is no different than health care systems, we're no different than the NYPD, we're no different than the LAPD. Every first responder agency is having a hard time," Chicago police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi told WBEZ in Chicago. In a March 30 tweet, Guglielmi said that the department is "prioritizing infection control protocols within police facilities."

This is how Policing has been changing globally and Bangladesh is no different. The honorable Prime Minister constantly foresees police as a development catalyst and allocates budget for police as an investment. The honorable Home Minister indicates Bangladesh Police as a partner of sustainable peace. With this annals and chronology, Bangladesh Police has remarkably been contributing to combat coronavirus catastrophe. The Inspector-General endorsed Standard Operating Procedures for protecting police professionals' health and establishments in line with the orders and guidelines of the government. Keeping in mind, the operational units and their Unit Chiefs have been maneuvering many humanitarian activities across the countries. The core activities include stopping the spread of rumors and fake news, controlling prize hikes and illegal hoarding of goods and commodities, ensuring home quarantine, controlling access and using the thermal scanner in entry points. Besides, the humanitarian activities, for example, massive awareness promoting campaigns and miking, installing handwashing facilities for service seekers, distributing masks to citizens, preparing hand sanitizers and distributing to those who need, food assistance to poor and middle-class citizens, transportation services to doctor and healthcare providers, inclusive help to marginalized communities, disinfecting roads and residential areas, managing dead bodies and attending funerals. In these huge tasks, police do not have their own time to mourn even. Along with this list of gigantic activities, all members of Bangladesh Police sacrificed their one-day salary and officers of the rank of ASP and above sacrificed their one-day salary plus their Bangla New Year festive Bonus and denoted to the charity fund of HPM for the motherland and the citizens of this land.  

Meanwhile, in the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, both in Bangladesh and the rest of the world, the pattern of policing has already been changing. A paradigm shift has taken place both in-home and in the globe. However, to ensure the sustainability of this model of pandemic policing requires policy provisions, legal enhancement. In Bangladesh, it requires for two essential reasons. Here citizens are used to seeing police with the stick, they never see police with the carrot. It is proverbial that carrot and stick policy works, only stick or the only carrot does not work. The stick is as usual police weapons and carrot can be empowering police with the legal provisions of allocating a share of humanitarian activities for the time of disaster and pandemic.

Secondly, our beloved Bangladesh urges for changing colonial perspectives. Last 200 years, the police are considered as 'Lathial Bahini' but in independent Bangladesh, in many disastrous times, it has been observed that police as humanitarian Bahini. This gradual transformation from so-called Lathial to humanitarian, basically combination of, has been taking place in the hearts of the people because of the initiatives of the government in general, and HPM's long cherished vision as well as individual initiative, in particular.  With this changing circumstance, it is benignly hoped that the sanguine policymakers may endorse futuristic policies for policing in the time of pandemic may strengthen our collaborative battle against future attack of viruses including catastrophic COVID-19.   

The writer has been serving as a civil service officer


















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