Policing in the country remains highly centralised, politicised and unaccountable. Along with India and Pakistan, Bangladesh was a part of British India and thus was (and continues to be) governed by the Police Act of 1861. From Partition in 1947 to the Liberation War of 1971, Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan and therefore shares a common history with Pakistan on the issue of police reform until 27 March 1971. After achieving independence, many committees and commissions were formed to look into the issue of police reform and formulate specific recommendations. But like elsewhere in the region, these have not resulted in any substantive reform. As a result, the country continues to struggle with an unprofessional and deeply dysfunctional police force. The men in uniform have acquired a reputation for wielding heavy-handed tactics when carrying out their duties.
At present, police reform is dominated by the UNDP-led Police Reform Programme started in 2003 in collaboration with the Government of Bangladesh. The program seeks to “shift Bangladesh police from an operationally reactive, command and control focused, law enforcement and public order agency to consultative, community-oriented, professional police service with an emphasis on crime prevention.” It entered into its second five-year phase in 2010.
CHRI’s objective in Bangladesh is to reduce illegitimate interference in policing with strong oversight, accountability and transparency. Some key areas that have been identified as in need of reform in Bangladesh are: