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To patronize and annoy

  • Published at 12:00 am February 6th, 2019
Keeping us safe? NASHIRUL ISLAM

There is a great disconnect between the law and law enforcement

String up the lights and light up the trees, everybody -- it’s Police Week 2019!

A whole week dedicated to celebrating our boys in seafoam green, who keep the streets of Dhaka, and everyone who calls this wonderful city home, safe and secure … from themselves.

I think we can all agree that there is no other “professional” more obtuse/unhelpful/useless than a Bangladeshi police officer.

And if you find yourself disagreeing with that sentiment, you’ve either never dealt with a police officer in your life or you’ve managed to find what I assume is the sole Serpico in our country.

Equipped with nothing more than an attitude, a perpetual desire to know where your “desher bari” is, and unchecked amounts of money made through bribery and corruption, our nation’s law enforcers have earned their reputation of being decidedly “anti-people” (if I may be allowed to borrow the popular mold).

Now, corruption and bureaucracy are hardly traits that are exclusive to our law enforcement, as the far-reaching, elastic tentacles of that terrible two-some can be felt coiled around each and every one of our civil administrations -- and anyone who has ever tried to get their passport renewed or tried to avail any state-sanctioned services would attest to that.

But you know what? I can still empathize with a low-level government flunky exercising a needless amount of bureaucracy: Being something like a passport officer endows one with very little power, and I kind of understand how there could be a certain allure to messing with some random citizen just trying to get their stately affairs in order.

Even if only for a fleeting moment and through something so minuscule, who wouldn’t want to taste the thrill of having power?

The reason why it’s so much more abhorrent (and counter-productive to their very job) for a police officer to do something similar is because the profession inherently comes with a degree of power over people, at least when it comes to the general masses.

Unless you’re being chased by some kind of crazed axe-murderer or serial rapist, the very sight of a small group of police officers usually elicits either of the following reaction: Anxiety or intense exasperation.

We all have stories of being stopped dead in our tracks on the streets by the fuzz for them to “check” us and then subsequently ask for some form of “tribute.” And with anecdotes of false cases being lodged against innocent by-standers for possession of illegal substances, it becomes important to ask exactly who we should be scared of when out on the streets by ourselves.

Police Week 2019 (it sounds increasingly ridiculous the more I hear it in my head) is supposed to be all about mending the broken bridge that lies between citizens and law enforcers. It’s about rebuilding trust. About making our law enforcement become more “people-friendly.”

But for an institution, that, by definition, is supposed to serve and protect the people, to be reminded not to patronize and annoy us instead, is an incredulous notion, and points to a great disconnect between the law and “law enforcement.”

But what else can we expect from a country that loves to enact/amend new laws but never really enforce them? 

Rubaiyat Kabir is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. He can be followed on Twitter @moreanik.