Dhaka Courier

Reforming the police

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Extrajudicial killing of Major (retd) Sinha Rashed Khan by some bad elements in the police force is not an isolated case; there is, in fact, a pattern. This pattern of brutal incidents perpetrated by the police does not singly belong to any one country; it is almost worldwide. The pervasive global pattern, hidden from public eyes, has given rise to the recent call for ‘Defund the Police’ in the USA under the banner of Black Lives Matter movement. There are valid reasons behind this call.

Dhaka Courier’s Editorial of August 7 aptly asks, “After all, how many isolated incidents does it take, before you spot the pattern? Indeed, hasn’t the pattern been apparent for too long now? The police have to realise, that a public to which you can read off a script can hardly keep the faith in perpetuity.” And it bluntly says, “For so many citizens, the police today stand out as a source of vexation, rather than a source of assurance.”

The perception of police ‘as a source of vexation, rather than a source of assurance’ is now a global problem. For this, the world is now deluged with protests against all sorts of terrifying violence committed by them. The current Black Lives Matter movement is basically a movement against police oppression suffered by the poor, disadvantaged and marginalized people, though many other issues and sub-issues have arisen along with this.

About the police force whose 9-minute chokehold led to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar said, “Minneapolis police is rotten to the root and is a cancer.” She together many others now in the USA demanded defunding and dismantling of the police force. According to her information given to the ABC News: 193 million dollar is spent on policing that’s 6 times higher than what is spent on affordable housing, 11 times more than what is spent on health, 482 times more than spent on crime prevention.

George Floyd and other colored and indigenous people before him have died under the knee of some white policeman. People’s welled-up anger burst in protest and the police force came down on them with fresh violence. The protest movement grew stronger and spread across cities in the world. Meagan Day wrote in the Jacobin (Police Brutality Against Protesters Only Stoked the Anti–Police Brutality Movement, 06.09.2020), “The police are violent. People protest police violence. The police brutally crack down on the protestors, generating more antipathy for police and therefore more protestors against police violence. It’s a tale as old as time ….” She said, “They are partly responsible for giving the movement the mass character it now has.”

This is the case in each and every country wherever the movement has gone to. People have suffered at the hands of the police and lost their lives in many cases, so they have come out in protest to voice their frustration and anger and to call for change. Many in the world now don’t see the police force as making any contribution to society for peace and prosperity, but a drain on their terribly needed resources.

Mariame Kaba, founder and director of Project Nia to end the incarceration of children and young adults, wrote in The New York Times ( Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police, June 12, 2020), ‘The first thing to point out is that police officers don’t do what you think they do. They spend most of their time responding to noise complaints, issuing parking and traffic citations, and dealing with other noncriminal issues. We’ve been taught to think they “catch the bad guys; they chase the bank robbers; they find the serial killers,” said Alex Vitale, the coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College, in an interview with Jacobin. But this is “a big myth,” he said. “The vast majority of police officers make one felony arrest a year. If they make two, they’re cop of the month.”’

Her vision of a state without police and prisons is like this, “People like me who want to abolish prisons and police, however, have a vision of a different society, built on cooperation instead of individualism, on mutual aid instead of self-preservation. What would the country look like if it had billions of extra dollars to spend on housing, food and education for all?”

The Floyd murder and the BLM movement in reaction to it has brought some reforms in the US police department, though far short of what are needed. But there have been little changes in other places of the world. Violence committed by the police is in decline nowhere. Ms. Kaba’s idea of ‘community care workers and restorative-justice model’ will take long to take root. In the mean time some reforms in the police behavior should be in place before public faith in the department sinks too low. As the DC editorial rightly says regarding our matter, ‘In an age where it can be mulled to “defund the police,” as in the U.S. recently, we must be open to at least reform.’

  • Killing
  • Major (retd) Sinha Rashed

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