|Community policing and the response to volatile situations|
Community policing and the response to volatile situations: The Bogra Experience
During the first quarter of 2013, the people of Bangladesh have encountered a volatile environment that has led to many deaths and serious injuries across the country. Some people, including police, think that the community policing philosophy is totally irrelevant in responding to large scale public disorder. This is not the case in Bogra where police officers with a strong commitment to community policing have been reaping the rewards of their previous efforts in nurturing community involvement in local law and order issues.
Police Inspector Ali Ahmed Hashemi, Officer-in-Charge of Gabtoli Police Station in Bogra outlined his experiences in responding to a potentially dangerous situation on 3 March 2013. Mr. Hashemi stated that on that day he and his staff at the Gabtoli Police Station were confronted by approximately 400 local people protesting over the recent conviction of a high profile religious person. Many of the protesters were armed with weapons and they managed to seize control of the police station and it was apparent that the protesters intended burning the police station.
Understandably, the police officers feared for their own safety and a number of options, including the use of force, were considered on how best to respond to this serious threat to their lives. Police resorted to firing 6 blank shots from their shotguns at the height of the threat against them, however, no one was injured as a result. Mr Hashemi decided that resorting to the use of force, while legal, would not be the best response at the time and decided to contact his local Community Policing Forum (CPF) members for their assistance. The CPF members from the nearby unions and wards rushed to the police station and persuaded the protesters from taking the law into their own hands. The CPF members and local government representatives convinced the protesters that it was the community’s police station and the police officers were their friends and acted as their protectors.
Mr Hashemi stated that involving the CPF members in the response worked like magic because the protesters dispersed within 20 minutes and Gabtoli Police Station did not face any other large scale protests while other police stations in Bogra District experienced ongoing violence in the following days.
Mr. Hashemi concluded that it was the previous efforts he and the community members had invested in community policing that helped in managing the large scale disorder at Gabtoli Thana that day without any casualties. To him, a community policing approach was now more relevant than ever in responding to potentially violent situations. It is clear to Mr. Hashemi that had he taken a different decision that day and used force to respond to the threats he and his staff faced, police community relations would have suffered irreparable damage in the short to medium term.
Mr. Mozzamel Hossain, the Superintendent of Bogra confirmed that without the cooperation from the CPF members the situation would have turned violent with a high probability of serious injuries or deaths occurring. He recalled during a recent incident that protesters snatched firearms from police officers during a protest and it was the CPF members who assisted the police to recover those firearms. Mr. Mozzamel has stated he was looking forward to strengthening the support given to the Community Policing Forum initiative in Bogra because it has proven to be successful in responding to local crime and disorder problems in a sensitive and effective manner and in a way to promotes police and community relations.
The Police Reform Programme is a proud supporter of the Community Policing Forum initiative.
Strengthening the quality of investigations: PRP’s support in the collection of fingerprints from prisoners
At the end of 2012, PRP supported a number of CID initiatives to increase the number of fingerprints taken from suspects and convicted prisoners in Bangladesh. The objectives of this initiative included:
1. Encouraging police to collect fingerprint evidence from crime scenes;
2. Increase the number of fingerprints taken from suspects and convicted prisoners in accordance with national laws, policies and procedures; and
3. Populating the Automated Fingerprint Information System (AFIS) with the fingerprint data to increase the likelihood of matching fingerprints located at crime scenes with known offenders.
PRP supported the CID to train 100 CID officers in the collection of fingerprints and provided 70 fingerprint kit boxes to assist in the collection of fingerprints.
In Q1 of 2013, the trained officers:
Collected fingerprints from 26,488 convicted prisoners.
Populated 8,058 of the collected fingerprint records on the AFIS database.
AFIS has identified 81 recidivist offenders using this process.
This Forensic Training Institute initiative, undertaken by the Criminal Investigation Department of Bangladesh Police is a good example of progress being made in the lawful collection of a wide range of evidence from crime scenes and from suspects. The Police Reform Programme is proud to continue supporting the Bangladesh Police in strengthening their investigative processes.