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Issues with Police Human Rights

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

Published: Tue, 20 Feb 2018

Chapter one: Introduction and overview

1.1: General Introduction:

Police rights and police history has been a subject of limited interest to the scholars of criminal justice, labor history and industrial relations across the world (Baker, 1999). When human rights of police are prescribed and debated, the issue creates much controversy and draws strong reaction from the academician, human rights experts, police controlling authority and public (Marks & Fleming, 2006). Police are usually perceived as state agents that serve the interest of the government. They think that police are bound to respect human rights of the population they serve while performing duties and functions specifically during using force, arresting and detention. The members of the police force often claim that they have equal rights and privilege similar to other citizens in addition to their duties and responsibilities. Apparently, there is a clear split between two poles – on the one hand each citizen or criminal, whose rights must be respected and protected, and on the other hand the police officers who have no rights, responsibility only. This partisan may prompt another debate on whether the police officers have less or more rights and obligations then the rest of the citizens. But it is totally incorrect that police officers have obligations only but no rights. Police are also citizen entitled to the same rights, privileges and benefits of citizenship (Bruce & Neild 2005). They are also protected by the same human rights standards (Feiner, 2009). If police are expected to defend democracy and human rights, they should not be denied basic democratic and basic rights (Marks & Fleming, 2006). The rights of police officers are constrained by regional, national, and international regulatory frameworks (Marks and Fleming 2006). Sometimes their rights are reduced to such a level that they do not have many basic rights as a citizen in many countries.

In Bangladesh, the rights of police officers also seem to be ill-understood and neglected on both intellectual and state level. The prolonged struggle of the police officers for the realization of the rights is not well-documented either in the academic or popular literature. The existing literature, human rights publications and the media while discussing about democratic policing often refer to the police accountability, civilianization of policing, policing outcomes and performance measurement, and community participation and partnerships but they hardly mention about the human rights of the police officers like other citizens of the country. As a result, the rights of police officers are subject to a wide range of violations in and outside the organization. The widespread violation of police rights varies from economic and social rights to civil and political rights, from individual level to collective level. This study attempted to investigate the economic and social rights violations of the police officers by narrowing down its focus only on the working environment they operate. The studies approached to examine the police work phenomena from human rights perspective where most of the studies described it from physiological, psychological and organizational perspective.

1.2: Objectives:

The primary objective of this research is to depict a real picture of human rights situation of the crime fighters within the organization, to investigate its possible causes and impact on the police individual and society as a whole. The secondary aims include directives for future research into police rights discourse for academician, and to recommend ways to improve human rights situation of the police officers which might help strengthen ongoing Police Reform Program in Bangladesh. I firmly believe that the outcome of the research can contribute to the policy makers of the government and non-government organizations in resolving the human rights abuses in and outside the police organization.

1.3: Research Question: The following questions have been formulated in order to meet the research objectives:

  1. which of the economic and social rights of the police members in Bangladesh come under violation?
  2. What are the factors leading to the violation of the economic and social rights of police members?
  3. What are the possible consequences ofthe violation on victim’s lifeandon society at large?

1.4 Background to the study

1.4.1 Personal Motivation:

Having both the human rights and police background, I perceived I would be the right person that would be able to precisely elucidate the complexity and peculiarity of human rights situation of the police workplace in Bangladesh. Police in Bangladesh are frequently accused of human rights abuse by the national and international human rights organizations (see Amnesty International, 2000, Odhikar, 2009). A number of studies can be done to answer ‘why do police violate human rights’. But being an insider, I understand well where the tension between policing and human rights and between the ethics and the practice of policing lies. Nearly five year’s field level experience with the organization as a mid-level police supervisor has given me an impression that the overall environment where they operate is not congenial to human rights friendly atmosphere both for the general people and the police members. A big share or contribution to the adverse environment is made by the stressful job itself and different kinds of organizational factors. The factors outside the organizations also have a significant role in creating human rights unfriendly environment. Some of the abuses by the police are taking place for personal gain of the individual police members whereas some are the result of imposed burden which they are unable to resist. Resource constraints and staff shortage that put physical, psychological and organization pressure often compel them to exhibit deviance behavior. In addition, deprivation of several basic rights as a consequence of poor working conditions and low wages creates deep frustration and depression among them resulting in strong job dissatisfaction. When all these internal factors combine with other factors, it is very likely that the police officers show up with extreme police deviance behavior having serious impacts on human rights. Unfortunately, no shed of light fell on the fragile and poor working conditions of the police in Bangladesh so far. It is also harder for them to talk to the media, and claim their rights in the same way as the workers in the private sector do through demonstration or strike. As a result, their inhumane sufferings remain beyond the reach of media, human rights activists and general public. In 2005, government introduced police reform programmes assisted by UNDP, DFID and other international donors. The local newspaper being influenced by the programme, sometimes published reports on the organizational problem of the police discretely. However, I did not find any systematic academic researches that have been carried out on the economic and social rights of the Bangladesh police in relation to their workplace.

1.4.2 Relevance in history:

The police struggle for their rights across the globe has been long and old. While police officers in Bangladesh are barred from being qualified as worker in the labor law, the police in Australia, Europe, North America and New Zealand are now fully entitled to have equal citizenship rights including economic and social rights (Finnane, 2001). In Europe, British Police stood up to establish their industrial and social rights through police strikes in London and Liverpool in 1918-9 and succeeded to ensure their industrial and social rights many decades ago. Following the British example, the adventurous police unions’ activities in New Zealand forced the government to mandate police unions and associations during 1919 ( Finnane 2001). There are also a number of instances of force revolt in the history of Bangladesh such as BDR mutiny in 2009. In 1993, subordinate police officers of Dhaka Metropoliton police at the Rajarbagh Police Lines in Dhaka agitated demanding better working conditions and increased pay (ICG, 2009). Fortunately, it ended up without any bloodshed and increased salaries but many officers got sacked. In 2009, the paramilitary force Bangladesh Rifles which is also regulated by the same ministry, led a murderous uprising in response to poor working conditionss and low pay leaving more than 75 people dead (ICG 2009).

1.4.3 Rationale of the study:

Realization of all the human rights including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights is nearly impossible without social order (Crashaw 2002). Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enables everyone to be entitled to the right to social and international order.  It is the police force whose fundamental function is to maintain social order by keeping criminality and social tension or civil unrest at tolerable level through effective policing. The dream of complete policing defined as effective, lawful and humane-would remain a dream only until and unless the police agencies are well managed and well resourced by the respective governments. Only through the promulgation of police code of conduct and ethics, human rights training, monitoring and oversight mechanism will help a little to improve the overall human rights records and performance of the police unless their basic rights remain unheard, unmet and fulfilled. Human rights of more than 150 million people of Bangladesh will also be at risk if police with its limited resources and poor working conditionss fails to maintain social order and stability.

1.4.4 Overview of the study:

The real working experiences of one and a half dozen of police officers are explored and analyzed using data obtained from their narratives conversational interviews. With direct reference to the existing available literature, it is attempted to demonstrate that the police members in Bangladesh have also been subject to the violation of economic and social rights in the workplace. But the human rights advocates ignore the close connection between internal and external violation i.e. human rights violation of the police and human rights abuse by the police. As a result, it has been a common practice among the human rights organizations, media and academician to criticize the police-subculture, corruption and lack of human rights training responsible for human rights violation by them. The sufferings and miseries of the police hardly managed to draw attention of the human rights organizations or the academician. The human rights organizations usually end up their duties by suggesting human rights training and monitoring mechanism to stop human rights abuses and corruption of the police. Despite the necessity of the human rights training and oversight mechanism, all these efforts may be proved meaningless for them if they do not see the application of those human rights in their practical lives.

1.4.5 Overview of the thesis: The thesis will be presented in six chapters:

Chapter One: This chapter presents the background describing my personal view and motivations including primary and secondary objectives.

Chapter Two: This chapter briefly describes the study population and the subject area including statistical numbers, facts and figures.

Chapter Three: This chapter gives a theoretical and conceptual background of the topic based on existing literature and other secondary source of data.

Chapter four: This chapter of methodology and method gives a full description of participant selection, interview process, ethical issues and the challenges to recruitment. 

Chapter Five: This chapter explains how data is examined and analyzed to develop the themes expressed by the participants.

Chapter Six: In this chapter, Findings are discussed and reviewed with the objectives. This chapter also discusses the implications and limitations of the thesis.

1.4.6 Conclusion:

This chapter gives an overall idea on the topic and describes the genesis of the research topic. Personal motivation for undertaking this project and the relevance of the research has also been discussed. It also gives an overview of the research and the chapter outlines. The following chapter discusses about the population under study and the subject area highlighting various aspects of the organization.

Chapter two: Demographical and organizational context of the research

2.1 The study population:

Bangladesh Police is a national organization with headquarter based in Dhaka. It is answerable to the acting government which controls and oversees the organization under the administrative control by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA). The organization consists of a number of branches and units that mainly include Range and Metropolitan police, traffic, an armed police battalion(APBN), a criminal investigation department (CID), special branch (SB), Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), and training institutions (Shahjahan, 2000). The ‘Range’ and ‘Metropolitan’ police are again subdivided into districts, circles, police stations and outposts (Shahjahan 2000, ICG 2009). Bangladesh has a total of 123197 police officers for its over 153 million population (ICG 2009). It means there is only one police officer for more than 1,200 people in Bangladesh. This ratio is probably the lowest ratio among the other South Asian nations, and nearly three times lower than the recommended ratio of 1:450 by the UN (ICG 2009, Appendix C). In some areas for example in Sylhet and Coxbazar district of the country the ratios are 1:3500 and 1: 2000 respectively (ICG 2009).

The total force with eighteen ranks can be categorized into gazetted (ASP to IGP) and non-gazetted ranks (Constable to Inspector) which is roughly analogous to commissioned and non-commissioned officers in the military. Subordinate officers with numbers 121,659 have overwhelming majority over the gazetted officers numbering 1538 only (ICG 2009: 8). The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Assistant Inspector Generals(AIG) or superintendents of police (SP) and Assistant Superintendent of Police constitute the four gazetted ranks while subordinate ranks include the positions of inspector, sub-inspector, sergeant, and assistant sub-inspector, head constables both armed and unarmed, naiks and constables (ICG 2009:30). Out of 121659 subordinate officers, constables are bulk forces having a figure roughly 88,000. The total number of women police is also very low standing at 1,937 i.e. roughly 1.5 percent in compared to that of other low income countries having 8.5 per cent policewomen (ICG 2009: 9).

2.2 The subject area:

In recent years, both the print and electronic media of the country also revealed many facts and figures about the working conditions of the police in Bangladesh. Karzon (2006) in a newspaper article stated that the police in Bangladesh are confronted with many kinds of problem that ranges from weak infrastructure to poor working conditions.Although Bangladesh got independence in 1947 from British rule and got separated from Pakistan in 1971, it has failed to rebuild its police force. The country still retains a colonial system of policing with little change that it inherited from its colonial master ( Karzon, 2006; ). The subsequent governments kept century-old police laws such as the Police Act of 1861; the Evidence Act of 1872; the Criminal Procedure Code of Police of 1898; and Police Regulation of Bengal of 1943 that were primarily devised to deter anti-British movements (Shahjahan, 2000; Karzon, 2006). Many provisions of the outdated laws have flaws and gaps that are inconsistent with the human rights spirits, rule of law and modern democracy (Karzon, 2006; ICG 2009).

Police in Bangladesh particularly the subordinate ranks lead a very difficult and unrewarding life because of deplorable working conditions, abysmal salaries, excessive workload, corrupt and politicized transfer and promotion system (ICG 2009; ). In terms of salary, the top-most police boss draws a monthly salary of Taka 23 000 ($333) while the lowest salary of the organization amounts to Taka 3000 which is just $1.30 a day which is approximately equal to the international poverty line of $1.25 per day (see appendix B). The working hours of the police members are almost double than that of other government employees (Karzon, 2006). It is also reported that they do not have adequate logistic support such as vehicles, prison vans, radios, fuel for vehicles, bicycles, modern weapons and even stationery to write reports (Karzon, 2006; ICG, 2009). Vacation, public holidays, annual and other leaves are rare and unheard and all these problems remain a great source of frustration and low morale for the officers (ICG, 2009). The annual budget of $420-million in addition to the resource constrains and staff shortage is simply unable to meet the organizational needs. In a report, another national daily revealed that 99 percent of the policemen blame the poor working conditions and lack of logistic support as major factors that prevent them from performing their duties (The Daily Star, 2007).  It commented that the police members in Bangladesh will continue to lead in human life until and unless salaries are increased, daily work hours are reduced to an acceptable level and all operational costs are met by the government. Referring to Paolo del Mistro, a Police specialist of the UNDP, a newspaper stated, “the police in Bangladesh are leading unsatisfactory life and they do not enjoy their policing job as it often destroys their self-respect. Moreover, they are not well-equipped” (cited in Azad, 2007).   He blamed the system not the police department for the grim working and living conditions. A civil society member in a seminar also stressed the need for increasing the salary and allowances for the police so that the police members change their mindset (The Independent, Bangladesh, 2008). In a round table discussion, another civil society member of the country went further and suggested that police officers with low salaries should be allowed to do other jobs so that they can compensate for the poor pay. He asserted, “They can not do that as long as their time of duty is not definite” (The Daily Star, August 12, 2007).

The police in Bangladesh have a bad reputation for their alleged involvement with corruption and brutality (ICG, 2009). According to Transparency International Bangladesh report, 96.6 per cent of Bangladesh’s households experienced some form of corruption that came across with law enforcement agencies (TIB, 2007). Police organization in Bangladesh had been identified as the most corrupt agency among all the government agency (karzon, 2006). A leading national daily of the country in its editorial wrote that the poor working conditions obstruct police to become servant of the people (The daily prothom alo, 2007). It recommended increasing the number of police personnel, vehicle and remuneration of police in addition to improving the poor working condition.

Chapter three: Literature Review

3.1 Introduction:

This chapter reviews the existing literature and other secondary sources of data that are related to the economic and social rights of police. The complex nature of the issue has been organized into various sections giving different aspects including the causes and consequences if remain unrealized.

3.2 Economic and social rights of police:

The concept of human rights of police does not imply a new thought or idea. Rather these are the same rights and benefits to which every citizen is entitled. Referring to police rights, Bruce and Neild asserted: “the facts that police are citizens, means they are entitled to the rights, privileges and benefits of citizenship” (2005:41). Therefore human rights of police include all the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights (Feiner, 2009; Aitchison, 2004). The rights of police officers are also protected by the same human rights standards enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as in the various regional and international human rights charters such as International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural rights, and European Convention on Human Rights (United Nations 1948; United Nations 1976; ECHR 1950). The economic and social rights of police are also clearly stated and standardized in the European Social Charter 1961 and the European Code of Police Ethics 2001 (ESC 1961; ECPE 2001). Both the charter provides a set of  standards for police officers including reasonable working hours, rest periods and paid holidays, remuneration enabling them to have a decent standard of living, increased overtime payment, health and safety regulations in the workplace and a system of social security considering their special nature and character of work. Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and article 6 of the European Social Charter 1961 recognize the right of the police members to form and join trade unions. 

International Labour Organization as a specialized international agency of the United Nations set some international labor standards and fundamental rights at work in its various conventions (ILO 1998). It sets standards determining hours of work, shift work, holidays, vacations, wages, social security and policy, accommodation, trade union, collective bargaining, rest and leisure for the workers to promote strong social policies, justice and democratic institutions. The benefits of the work standards set by ILO are equally applicable to the members of police in their work place. But it is important to make clear that the police officers can claim the rights against the state not other citizens. The failure of the state to protect the rights does not give legitimacy to police to resort to violations of human rights of general people or citizens.

Police like other employees of the state are the public servants that serve state interest. As an employee or worker, the human rights of a police officer mainly revolve around the economic and social rights that mainly fall into the following categories: labour rights and the right to adequate standard of living, right to food, right to health, right to housing and right to education (Nel & Bezuidenbout, 1997:97). The bulk labour rights include the right to trade union, right to organized and collective bargaining, right to rest and leisure, right to no forced labour, right to work and equal pay for equal work. Bruce and Neild also argued that central to recognizing police as citizens revolve around their right to decent conditions of service, the right to form employee representative organizations, and the right to engage in collective bargaining (2005:43).

3.2.1 Democratic policing versus economic and social rights of police:

There is a close link “between organizational police democracy and societal democracy” where citizens are able to participate in decision-making processes and where basic human rights are protected (Marks & Fleming, 2006:179). It means police are likely to respond more democratically and humanly if they also experience the benefits of democratic labor and social rights in their organizational set up (Berkley 1969, 46-51). Hence the right of police officers to engage in direct and indirect forms of democratic participation is crucial to rights based awareness. Police rights movement through democratic police union is also consistent with the advancement of democracy and good governance (Finnane, 2002; Prasad & Snel, 2004). Police rights movement is now viewed as a countervailing force and broadcasting agendas for social change directed to establish racial justice, gender equality, and urban change (Berkley, 1969; Johnston, 2000; Robinson, 2000; Sklansky, 2005b; O’Malley & Hutchinson, 2005). Police union can be seen as a bulk force for them because through the exercise of this right they might get the recognition of other economic and social rights in the workplace. In addition, police democracy brings not only the democratic benefit for them, rather through democratic police rights movement through police union can serve as a necessary internal check against bureaucratic usurpation within the organization (Gammage & Stanley, 1972; Fleming & Lewis, 2002:92). Despite all the benefits and importance of police trade union as core labor rights of ILO, it creates more controversy and brings criticism from academics, police managers and public than any other labour union. Police organization that allows police union is branded as ‘obdurate organization’ by the police scholars as the union engages only on their own vested interests such as workplace improvement and status enhancement rather than social justice features (Fogelson, 1977; O’Malley, 2005b; Reiner, 1978). The critics argued that this narrowness or ‘bureaucratic conservatism’ of police union may thwart democratic aspirations within trade union structures (Hyman, 2000; Prasad et al 2004; Burgmann & Burgmann, 1998:63).

3.2.2 Positive development towards police rights:

A significant change is occurring in the police organizations across the world through the ‘privatization, civilianization, and responsibilization of policing’ (Marks & Fleming, 2006: 193). International Labour Organization recognizes all the employment rights of the police officers except few restrictions for the emergency services (ILO 2004). But in a recent move, the ILO develops codes of practice to promote social dialogue within the public service including emergency service too. In a joint meeting on public emergency service (such as police) in 2003, The ILO adopted a document “Guidelines on Social Dialogue for Public Emergency Services in a Changing Environment” to promote fundamental labor rights such as the right to form and join trade union,  and collective bargaining. Thus these guidelines of ILO give an indication to its member states to allow the police to unionize and to bargain (ILO 2003a). The international network of police unions has also been attempted to persuade the ILO to review its conventions (Mark & Fleming, 2006).  They quoted Shizue Tomoda, an ILO technical specialist, as saying, “As long as a large number of member states feel that it is proper for police labor rights to be regulated by national laws, the ILO Secretariat can do little to change the status quo.”(p.189). In parallel with ILO prescription, many nations have promulgated special legislations that enable police officers to be entitled to all the citizenship rights including police union for instance, Police Officers Bill of Rights of USA; the European Social Charter and European Code of Police Ethics in Europe.

The modern policing are now centered on the principle of more democracy, more accountability, more equitability, and more professionalism. Police organization within public sector is now defined as growing labor-intensive industry that enables police to be qualified as ‘worker’ having all the labour rights (Mark & Fleming, 2006). Hence, being a member of a labor-intensive industry, they are also equally concerned about the working conditionss and wages (Wellington & Winter, 1969; Reiner, 1978).The current global socio-economic climate leads police unions and public sector unions to work more closely with the labour movement in terms of their rights to collective bargaining (Reiner, 1978). EUROCOP, an association of twenty-seven member police organizations across Europe, is also promoting fairness and equal opportunities in the police service of its member organizations (Marks & Fleming 2006).  Berkley (1969:46-51) also mentioned about the highly developed police unions across the Europe such as in Germany, France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Griffin (2001), Chief executive officer of the Canadian Professional Police Association noted that the police representatives in Canada are now a part of broad labor union body (Fleming & Lewis, 2002). In the United States, Police unions go beyond the narrow interest of the police members promoting the public interests agenda consistent with community preferences in partnership with other police union partner (Magenau & Hunt, 1996).  The police federation of Australia is also affiliated and aligned with the national trade union federation (Marks & Fleming, 2006). Some unions of Australia (for example, the Northern Territory Police Association NTPA) are now playing a very significant and central role to solve the resource problem of the aboriginal territory. In South Africa, the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) established in 1989 is also affiliated to the progressive trade union federation committed to democratic governance. They defend the socio-economic interests of the communities which is now well-recognized by the international human rights organizations (Marks & Fleming, 2004). Police in Lesotho, Zambia, and Botswana who were denied the police rights, called upon the South African police union, POPCRU, to assist them in convincing police authorities and managers about the benefits of police unionization (Hopkins, 2004).

3.3 Theoretical framework:

3.3.1 Occupational police stress:

A number of books, reviews of literature and public seminars on the study of the stressful nature of work indicate the growing interest in the field over the past 45 years across the world including America, Britain, Australia and New Zealand (Hurrell, Nelson, & Simmons , Buunk & de Wolff, 1992; Fried, 1993; Huddleston, 2002). One of the main reasons behind the interest is work-related stress causes huge human and monetary cost (Schuler & Van Sell, 1981; Cooper & Marshall, 1976; Levi, 1981; Moss, 1981 cited in Parker & DeCotiis, 1983). The recent years have also witnessed ‘a sizeable body of literature’ that examines police stress from a variety of perspective (Webb & Smith, 1980:251). This study will look into the police stress from human rights approach taking its physiological, psychological and organizational consequences into account. Even though a certain levels of stress are found in almost all occupations, police work has long been termed as a high stress, high strain and ‘critical’ profession (Anshel, 2000, Brown & Campbell, 1994; Horn, 1991; Kroes, 1976; Kroes & Hurrell, 1975; Raiser, 1974; Reilly & DiAngelo, 1990; Violanti & Marshall, 1983, Paton 1996a). They are usually the first to reach and the last to leave the scenes of murder, suicides or accidents. One police psychologist stated: “It is an accepted fact that a police officer is under stress and pressure unequaled by any other profession” (cited in Webb & Smith 1980:255). They are frequently confronted with very sad and violent categories of incidents (Carlier, 1999, Carlier & Gersons, 1992) and ‘hidden victims’ of work-related psychological trauma (Paton, 1989, 1994b).

Apart from the aforementioned intrinsic job stress, the police stressors may range from critical staff shortage to interaction in and outside the organization. Police stressors within the organization may be characterized as excessive workload, staff shortage, work interfering with family, poor or inadequate equipment or resources, seeing criminals go free and inadequate pay, uncivil interaction with co-workers and administrative hassles (Collins & Gibbs, 2003; Davey, Obst, & Sheehan, 2001; Morash, Haarr, & Kwak, 2006; Pasillas, Follette, & Perumean-Chaney, 2006, Huddleston 2002). Rigid organizational structure, shift work, excessive overtime, lack of opportunities for the advancement, workplace discrimination or harassment, administrative pressure to solve the problem, and conflicts over role and responsibility, job transfer, daily hassles, work-related disasters  can also cause serious police stress (Collins & Gibbs, 2003; Brown & Campbell 1994; Sewell 1993; Pratt & Barling, 1988). A police officer without the support of his or her family or friend and personal skills is more vulnerable to police stressors (Dewe & Guest, 1990; Latach & Havlovic, 1992; Tho


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