Community Policing has become a `buzz` word particularly with the law enforcement officials all over the world since the 1980s as an effective tool of prevention of crime, reducing the fear of crime, maintenance of peace & order in the community, identification of criminals and bringing them to justice as the conventional method of Policing has proved to be ineffective in dealing with crimes & criminalities in a fast changing socio-economic order. The crime scenes have undergone radical changes with the emergence of new types of crimes and sophistication in the modalities of criminals. There was, therefore, the growing realization that the community’s participation & partnership in combating the whole gamut of criminal administration & solving community problems was an imperative need. Community Policing started in some big and high crime-prone cities in the USA in mid-80s and their gradual success encouraged other developed and developing countries to follow their examples keeping in view their own culture, values, heritage and needs. But the oldest form of Community Policing is the `kobans` of Japan introduced as back as in 1874 with 35,000 kobans (similar to our police Boxes) spread all over the country. Its success is well known and many countries have adapted it `mutatis mutandis` suiting their special requirements.
The concept of Community Policing needs a little elaboration for better understanding and implementation in our context. There are different dimensions of Community Policing and there are obviously many definitions of the concept but the most comprehensive definition seems to be given by Robert R. Friedman of Georgia University USA (1992) which is as follows:
Community Policing is a policy and a strategy aimed at achieving more effective and efficient crime control, reduced fear of crime, improved quality of life, improved police services and police legitimacy, through a proactive reliance on community resources that seeks to change crime-causing conditions. It assumes a need for greater accountability of police, greater public share in decision making and greater concern for civil rights and liberties.
Community Policing from the above definition implies that it is a policing strategy and philosophy based on the notion that community interaction and support can help control crime and reduce fear, with community members helping to identify and detain suspects and bring local problems to the attention of police.
Community’s involvement & partnership in Policing was keenly felt in the early days of our Independence as there was a sharp deterioration in law & order situation, increased crimes & fear of crimes due to a host of reasons; political, social & economic. Police of a newly independent country felt helpless to combat the rising incidences of crime as they were not properly organized, lacked the necessary man-power, logistics, equipment & training facilities. Moreover, there was little or no community support & participation in policing due to lack of popular trust & confidence in police based as it was on a colonial model not suitable for a newly independent country. Bangladesh Police is a typical centralized and highly bureaucratic organization which inherited a colonial structure and culture established by an Act of 1861. Under this Act police forces were not accountable to anyone except their own hierarchy and the political and administrative executives. But community policing demands the police organization to be more accountable to the community than to the police hierarchy.
The successful implementation of the community policing philosophy in Japan, USA and some other countries encouraged some police officers to get trained abroad to replicate Community Policing model in our country suiting our own requirements within the existing organizational and legal frame-work. Community policing in its rudimentary form was introduced by some pioneering and innovative mid-level police officers (SPs/OCs) in the early 1990s in some districts (Mymensingh) and some Police Stations (Kafrul & Cantonment) of DMP on their own initiatives on an experimental basis. This was in the form of night patrols by volunteers through Committees (Town Defense Party TDPs) with leading and well-to-do persons of the locality. A major break-through in introducing community Policing was achieved in 2005 with the launching of Police Reform Project (PRP) in 2005 to modernize & reform Police with a view to establishing the rule of law and making police a service-oriented, pro-people institution which will be accountable to the people they serve. The project funded by donor agencies like UNDP, DFID and European Commission is being implemented in two policies i.e 2005-2009 and 2009-2014. Under the aegis of PRP some significant development has taken place over the years in the areas of Police infrastructure, training equipment, logistics and improvement in professionalism. Other significant areas include spreading community policing all over the Country and introduction of Open House Day once a month in every Police Station when people of all walks of life come and interact with Police Station officers and other senior police officers and make suggestions for ways and means to reduce crimes and solving other problems in their respective areas.
Its terms of reference include organizing seminars, symposiums, conference with multi disciplinary personnel to build public awareness about the effectiveness of Community Policing and to arrange training for police officers of different ranks to disseminate the philosophy of Community Policing and its working procedure. At the Division, District, Metropolitan and Police Station levels, there are Community Policing Cells which in turn is supposed to oversee the working of Community Policing at different levels including the gross-root levels. There is one designated Community Policing officer at each Police Station (Community police Officer) whose duty is to ensure the working of Committees at Union/Ward levels. Community Policing Officer is an important link in the Community Policing between the police & the people and his duties include constant and sustained interaction with the community members identifying and knowing their day to day problems with special focus on crimes and their perpetrators and helping to solve these with community’s participation.
According to available information there are about 990 Community Policing Committees/Forums at different levels and about 22,811 people are directly involved with Community Policing at Dhaka Metropolitan area under the overall guidance & supervision of crime prevention Center at the Police Head Quarters.
Community Policing has made significant contribution in matters of dispute settlement, arrest of criminals/suspects and in building public awareness about social issues like violence against women and children, child marriage, eve teasing, drug addiction etc.
Community Policing should not, however, be conceived as a panacea or all-cure prescriptions for all social problems. There are impediments to its successful implementation from within the department & outside. The following are some of the obstacles.
All these obstacles can be overcome by a strong political will and firm commitment of police leaders and change of mind-set of police officers at all levels. Its success ultimately depends on involvement of all segments in the society and should not be left squarely to the police department alone. Else the catchy slogan ‘পুলিশই জনতা, জনতাই পুলিশ’ adapted by Metropolitan Police will remain as illusive as ever.