Constable Recruitment: Mired in muck
The Police Headquarters has fired 18 Narayanganj constables over serious irregularities in their recruitment and recommended departmental action against at least 10 inspectors and sub-inspectors for their "false" verification reports or recommendations.
The PHQ, however, did not recommend any action against the ultimate decision-maker, the SP, despite allegations of impropriety.
The Daily Star came to know about the irregularities recently after obtaining an internal police enquiry report, submitted by a three-member PHQ team on October 20 last year.
The constables were appointed in 2019 by the then Narayanganj superintendent of police Muhammad Harun Or Rashid under a district quota. Two of them recently moved the High Court challenging their dismissal.
Current and former police officials said although it was not always possible for a supervisor to monitor everything, Harun could not simply shrug off his responsibility.
Harun, now posted at the cyber and special crime unit of detective branch (north) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, denied any wrongdoing and blamed his junior officers for everything.
Besides, no action has been taken against the inspectors and sub-inspectors in question -- they are still "facing departmental enquiry for inaccurate verification reports".
Contacted, incumbent Narayanganj SP Jayedul Alam said the PHQ already instructed them to take departmental action against the inspectors and sub-inspectors involved in the verification.
"As per the directives, we have initiated an investigation, which is ongoing. We will be in a position to talk about actions once the investigation has ended," he told this paper on Thursday.
Amid widespread allegations of irregularities and corruption in constable recruitment, the PHQ has decided to evaluate written exam answer sheets in upcoming recruitments. Last month, a new recruitment policy came into force after the home ministry's approval.
Before this, SPs were tasked with evaluating the answer sheets and taking interviews, before finally recruiting constables in their districts.
"Police constables will be recruited in line with the new policy.... If allegations of corruption are proven against any police member, he will not be spared," Inspector General of Police Benazir Ahmed told a police event at the PHQ on September 14.
THE FORGERY IN NARAYANGANJ
On May 24, 2019, the PHQ issued a circular for recruitment of constables across the country.
In Narayanganj, among the hundreds who sought the now-lucrative post were the 18 "lucky" young men who eventually landed the job.
They are Md Humayun Kabir, Md Akram Hossain, Md Russel Sheikh, Md Sumon Ahmed, Kabir Mia, Md Sajib Prang, Md Apirul Islam, Md Raihan Ali, Md Firoz Ali, Md Ripon Hossain, Md Sabuj Hossain, Md Russel, Md Sujon Ahmed, Md Tofael Khan, Md Sohel Rana, Md Sadrul and Manik Mia.
The Daily Star could not independently verify their documents, but the PHQ inquiry found forgery so blatant that it is hard to miss.
Five candidates submitted land sale deeds bearing exactly the same registration number (7508). They are Ripon, Sajib, Sabuj, Md Russel and Kabir.
Three others -- Humayun, Russel Sheikh and Sujon -- provided land sale deeds also bearing an identical number, 7491/19. Similarly, Akram, Ripon and Firoz's papers bore the number 7492/19 while that of Apirul and Raihan 7995.
The land sale deeds of 11 of the 18 constables are under the same mouza and same daag and khatian, having the same CS, SA and RS numbers. Their papers show each registered their land on June 16, 2019, just 23 days after the circular.
Usually, national identity cards, citizenship certificates and educational certificates are enough to prove permanent residency. The enquiring officers ask for land sale deeds when they have reasons to believe that the papers are fake.
However, although many of the deeds bore the same registration number with the same date, the district police verification overlooked it to recruit the 18 constables, said the enquiry report recently seen by The Daily Star.
The PHQ enquiry held six sub-inspectors (SIs), who conducted the verifications, and four inspectors including officers-in-charge (OCs) of Rupganj, Araihazar and Fatullah police stations, who endorsed the verification reports, responsible for "utter negligence" in duty.
"The committee submitted the report on the basis of its findings," said Md Talebur Rahman, assistant inspector general at the PHQ.
Asked why they did not recommend any action against SP Harun, Talebur, who led the inquiry, said they only acted within the scope of the inquiry.
A number of senior and mid-ranking police officials said the SP, being the ultimate approver and hiring authority, could not avoid his responsibility.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, they said they suspected "a good amount of bribe" behind the recruitment.
'ALARM RAISED, BUT SILENCED'
Two of the sub-inspectors now facing departmental enquiry said they had clearly raised the flag about some background information about 10 of the 18 candidates, despite pressure from the high-ups to produce positive reports.
"Even then, they were recruited," one of them told The Daily Star recently.
Besides, former Rupganj OC Mahmudul Hasan, who forwarded verification reports of 15 of the 18 constables, said he detected the potential forgery in the land sale deeds and alerted his superiors, only to be shut down.
"I informed the SP sir about the anomalies and sought his suggestions. He asked me to forward the reports on human grounds," Mahmudul, now posted at DMP, said.
The two sub-inspectors -- Farid Uddin and Shamim Al Mamun -- did the background checks of 10 constables, each dealing with five verifications.
Farid said he mentioned all the discrepancies in his reports and that he never thought the candidates would get the job.
Shamim said he found all the five land sale deeds to be authentic, but raised the flag about their permanent addresses, which he mentioned in his reports. He too wondered how the five still got hired.
Both said there was pressure from their high-ups to give positive reports.
Then Fatullah OC Aslam Hossain who forwarded one verification report said he did it with an honest intention.
The IO even submitted the picture of a house on the land and citizenship certificate issued by the local chairman, said Aslam, now OC of Sarail Police Station in Brahmanbaria.
Nazrul Islam, former OC of Araihazar, said he simply forwarded the reports of three candidates after the verification done by a junior officer.
'SP NOT THE SUBJECT HERE'
Harun protested his innocence, saying SPs were not responsible for background checks.
Asked about Rupganj OC Mahbub's informing him about the detection of possible forgery in the land deeds papers, Harun said, "It does not matter what someone claims verbally. The only thing that matters is what is written on paper."
He was apparently referring to an office order issued by all SPs to the respective OCs concerning the recruitment of constables.
"If any information regarding verification is found false, the investigation officers will be held responsible," the order issued after the circular read.
"I do not recall what the investigation officer wrote back then. The SP is not the subject here. You better ask the Police Headquarters as to what was written in the verification reports as we sent them to the Police Headquarters," said Harun, now a joint commissioner of cyber and special crime unit of detective branch (north) of DMP.
He joined this position only recently, after being promoted as an additional deputy inspector general. Before that, he served as the deputy commissioner (Tejgaon division) of DMP amid controversies over some of his activities.
Barely a year after his appointment as Narayanganj SP in December 2018, he was transferred to the PHQ following allegations of abuse of power.
He allegedly tried to extort Showkat Aziz Russell, chairman and managing director of Amber Group, by framing the businessman and his driver in drugs and arms cases in November 2019.
Earlier in 2016, former government employee Delwar Hossain sued Harun, then Gazipur SP, and 17 others including three other cops over "forcibly taking control of 8.5 bighas of land worth TK 100 crore" in Bhogra area of Gazipur.
'NO ROOM FOR SUCH RECRUITMENT'
Former police chief Nur Mohammad said there was no scope for recruitment on "human grounds."
He acknowledged that SPs could not always verify the background checks done by junior officers.
But, he added, the senior officer has to shoulder the responsibility if there are proofs that he asked the IOs to furnish positive reports.
"On many occasions, senior officers took bribes but then blamed it on others [junior officers]," said Nur, now an Awami League lawmaker.