Police officers work under tremendous pressure
The criminal justice system widely refers to the criminal judicial process, or procedures, of adjudicating crimes or criminal issues to ensure justice is ensured, with an aim to prevent crime and discourage potential offenders from committing criminal wrongdoings.
The criminal justice system, therefore, comprises the procedure by which criminal conduct is investigated, arrests made, evidence gathered, charges brought, defences raised, trials conducted, sentences rendered, and punishment carried out.
It also includes the system of law enforcement, the bar, the judiciary, corrections, and probation that is directly involved in the apprehension, prosecution, defence, sentencing, incarceration, and supervision of those suspected of or charged with criminal offenses.
Most criminal justice systems have five components: Law enforcement, prosecution, defence attorneys, courts, and corrections, each playing a key role in the criminal justice process. The police station is one of the places where the legal process of getting justice starts with regards to criminal justice. Therefore, access to the police station must be easy for everyone.
In Bangladesh, the access to the police is seemingly there, but, mentally, it is rather distant from the people. People feel uncomfortable going to the police station when, in fact, it should be the opposite. People have many complaints about the police but sometimes they fail to consider the hardships or sacrifices the police go through. The psychological pressures they take dealing with dead and injured bodies are hard to imagine for us.
As an LLB (Hons) student, I was part of a group of three students who visited a police station in Dhaka, mainly to understand the work procedures of the police force in a police station.
Also, the purpose was to know the police station environment because, as a future lawyer, this kind of environment would become common for us. Our journey started on an April morning. While entering the police station, one of the police officers called us and recorded our information in a record book. They were very particular about every detail of the visitors in the record book.
Then we entered into the main premises where everyone was busy with their own work. One of the officers called us and asked how he could help. When we told him the purpose of our visit, he instantly lost all his interest and steered us towards another officer.
The other officer did the same thing and, eventually, we had gone through four such individuals who had little interest in catering to our education purpose. It appeared to us that most of the police officers were more interested in legal issues. While that is their primary job, there must be some personal benefits involved with legal cases which showing a bunch of students about their work would not achieve.
After a while, we found a female officer who was very busy but friendly and suggested that we wait because the officer-in-charge (OC) of the station was quite busy as we had aimed to take his interview. We were sitting with the general people who had come with their problems at the station. We tried to strike up a friendly conversation but, unsurprisingly, it seemed that they were not very keen.
However, they were quite comfortable sharing their problems only with the officers at the station. We observed a sense of relief in their faces after talking to the police about their problems. It made us realize how the police are playing such an important role in our society. The police are the only symbol of trust when a person has a serious legal or criminal issue.
After waiting for two hours, we came to know that the OC of the police station had gone out for an urgent matter. However, we found a sub inspector, who was very helpful and explained to us how they work in a police station. While talking to the sub-inspector, we understood that, in many cases, they tend to solve the problem through mediation rather than following the criminal justice procedure.
There are many problems regarding the service of police that we found through our visit. Some problems seemed to be specific for this particular station but some are dealt with by the most of these police stations across our country. The sub-inspector said that, in their jurisdiction, they are responsible for 250,000 people. However, they have only six vehicles to provide their services to this population.
Moreover, the police feel enormous political pressure when they conduct any investigation or go to arrest someone. As described by the said sub-inspector, most of the time, calls come from different influential people to interfere with their daily work. Also, the logistic support provided is not enough for them; they go through with many operations where their lives are at tremendous risk.
Also, we felt that the number of police officers was not enough for such a huge number of people. Normally, a police officer has to do far more hours of duty than people from other professions. Their duty hours discourage them to provide a better service. They are always working under huge mental and physical pressure and, therefore, their behaviour is not always appropriate. In such circumstances, we felt that there should be some professional training program designed for our police force to manage their stress and also how to behave properly with the people of the community.
We observed that when a person comes to a police station for help, he/she is under tremendous pressure and panic and they come to police station as a last resort and, under these circumstances, that person deserves to be treated with the utmost respect.
We must realize how important the police are for our society. We may criticize them for many reasons (being corrupt or being politically influenced) but there is no way to deny how hard they are working to keep our society safe despite a lot of limitations.
Rizowan Ahmed is a student of law at North South University.