"Seven policemen sent to jail", "'Drama by cops' gone wrong", "Bamna OC withdrawn for slapping ASI", "Kotwali OC, 4 cops sued for extortion", and "Durgapur OC withdrawn over torturing Jubo League leader", were some of the headlines over the last few days.
Of late, complaints against police over various acts of brutalities and misdeeds have been pouring in.
Intimidation, extortion, detention of people without any valid reason, bribery, and threatening to kill people were the common allegations raised against members of police.
The sudden rise in the number of allegations against the force members overshadowed their feats and somewhat sullied the image the force earned by being on the Covid-19 frontline. Police were on the streets to ensure people's safety and helped working people during the shutdown.
The killing of a former army officer in police firing reinforced the belief of many that the force is trigger-happy and it has dented people's trust in the police.
Ex-major Sinha Md Rashed Khan, who served in the Special Security Force (SSF) and took voluntary retirement two years ago, was killed in police firing on the night of July 31 at Shamlapur police check-post. The police gave a different version to the ones given by witnesses.
The killing triggered widespread criticism, leading the authorities to form a high-powered enquiry committee. As an immediate measure, 21 policemen were closed. Later, seven cops were arrested. Of them, four were placed on remand.
But as people were reeling from the shock of Sinha's killing, some other incidents came to the fore, dealing a further blow to the force.
Yesterday, an SI of Kadomtoli Police Station and eight others were sued for abduction and extortion in a case filed by a shop owner. The shop owner alleged that the cop threatened to frame him in narcotics and arms cases and took Tk 1 lakh and goods from his shop.
On Wednesday, a superintendent of police (SP) of Rajshahi range was sued in an extortion case.
Businessman Golam Mostofa, a relative of a former inspector general of police, filed the case against SP Md Belayet Hossain with a Dhaka court.
Some 15-16 unknown people, introducing themselves as "DB men" and led by Belayet, beat him up and forcibly took him to the capital's DB office, demanding Tk 25 lakh, Mostofa alleged in the case statement.
In another incident, a case was filed against five policemen of Akhaura Police Station in Brahmanbaria yesterday for extorting money by threatening to kill a Bangladeshi expatriate in a "crossfire".
On August 11, five members of the capital's Kotwali Police Station, including its OC, were sued in an extortion case.
Plaintiff, Sohel Miah, a 50-year-old cloth trader and also toll collector at Waizghat in Old Dhaka, alleged that the cops extorted Tk 3.5 lakh from his family by threatening to frame him in a case.
The transfer of four high officials of Dhaka Metropolitan Police's (DMP's) Mirpur division is another shocking event for the police force. They were transferred following mishandling and detonation of explosives with which some cops were allegedly trying to frame a person. The explosives went off inside Pallabi Police Station on the morning of July 29.
Complaints against law enforcers are nothing new and the police are used to receiving numerous allegations. A complaint cell, formed in 2017, has received several thousand complaints against cops.
Cases have also been filed against errant policemen.
According to police headquarters data, 235 cases had been filed against 357 members of police across the country in 2019 alone.
Of them, the DMP had the highest 31 cases where 43 cops were accused. Cox's Bazar was second with 13 cases against 35 policemen, followed by Satkhira where 20 policemen were sued in eight cases.
The accused policemen were lower-tier officials.
The allegations included bribery, extortion, infidelity, misconduct and misbehaviour with senior officials, according to the data.
Speaking on the issue, former inspector general of police Nur Mohammad said each and every such incident had a negative impact on the entire force.
The police often have to discharge their duties under pressure, he said, adding, "So, in many cases, they get involved in problems. In my experience, this is a part of the job. It is difficult to get rid of such things due to the work pattern … .
"Where there is power, there will be misuse of power too. You will see it abroad too," he told The Daily Star.
"However, such incidents can be reduced by proper supervision. In absence of strong monitoring, such problems will persist," said Nur, also a ruling party lawmaker.
Replying to a question, he said, "It's true that we couldn't take the police recruitment, posting, promotion processes to an expected level."
He said in some cases, lobbying gets priority in recruitments and promotions.
Asked whether errant policemen getting away with minor punishments, like withdrawals or transfers, was in many cases the reason behind recurrence of such incidents, the ex-IGP said, "There are some weaknesses in the system. If you want to punish someone, you have to prove it with witnesses. In many cases, witnesses do not show up fearing reprisal."
Absence of a witness protection scheme is also a reason behind it, he added.
Abdul Kader Miah, chairman of the Criminology and Police Science department at Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University, said the police work with people, mostly deviant groups, and naturally they have to deal with them with hard and soft hands.
"But the problems occur when they [police] fail to maintain balance in their work," he told The Daily Star on Wednesday.
He said the police force was being run by an act which was enacted by British colonial rules intended to "exploit people", and this was a major obstacle to pro-people policing.
Over the last five months, the police have been serving the people while trying to deal with a pandemic and the work might have led some of them to be distressed -- leading some to get involved in such activities, he said.
"There is a lack of professionalism among many policemen due to socio-economic and political reasons. Besides, they lack professional training and have a huge workload," he said.
About solutions to the problems, the associate professor said police high-ups have to set an example by punishing errant policemen so that no member dares to indulge in such crimes.
He said the people-police ratio in Bangladesh was very high, which must be addressed and policemen have to be provided not only physical training but also moral, ethical, and religious training to make them more professional.
This paper called and texted Assistant Inspector General (Media) Md Sohel Rana several times yesterday evening for comments but he did not respond.