Partnering with community Panacea for police encounters
On May 25, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, accused for buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Mr. Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life. The Police Department fired all four of the officers involved in the episode, announced murder and manslaughter charges against the officer who can be seen most clearly in witness videos pinning Mr. Floyd to the ground. Similarly, two policemen were killed on May 26 night after unidentified gunmen opened fire in Islamabad. Both incidents are the prime examples of normal police encounters or stop and search conducted by the police on routine basis but unfortunately turned violent.
Searches are generally based on reasonable suspicion by the police officer that a person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. In the situation the suspect has no right to walk away and cannot refuse to provide identity, however, the suspect has a right of silence and refuse to speak. First episode of encounter depicts a picture of police’s excessive force prohibited under the law while the second incident portrays a scenario where police failed to react in response to the brutal force applied by the suspects. Police departments across the world are actively in pursuit to explore and try different strategies in planning their operations and activities to minimize the gap of mistrust between police and citizens. There is a strong belief that the police mission can only be achieved under the responsibility of city by enforcing the coherent strategies at the local level. Criminologists are of the view that efficient planning is rooted in the social environment in which police forces evolve and identify the needs of local citizens.
In the United Kingdom, the Crime and Disorder Act, adopted in 1998, calls for cooperation between local police forces and civil authorities to develop appropriate solutions for reducing crime and delinquency. The development of their strategy is largely based on public consultation and on a security diagnosis by considering all relevant information on a specific area. It is implemented under the guidance of a partner’s council composed of local police and authorities and representatives of probation and public health services.
The aforementioned strategies have provided a unique opportunity for police to increase the ability of local communities to share and assume their responsibility for safety in cities, improve services to citizens through the development of partnerships, and promote the exercise of local democracy and citizen participation while contributing to greater police accountability.
Police’s contribution to good urban governance can be measured by its ability to establish and maintain good relations with citizens while exercising their mandate. We have to modernize the policing strategies, have to adopt approaches only directed towards partnership and the training offered to police officers on respectful and effective modes of operation which respect human rights. These are the few elements may help to promote a culture of positive interactions between police forces and the public. Unfortunately, the citizens around the world have developed a negative perception of the police and consequently the community and police are unable to develop a trust between each other. The situation is even worst in Pakistan. Certainly, there are historical reasons for this situation, especially in the quasi-military role centered on political and social repression exercised by the police.
Another major problem is the corruption and a wide range of factors such as the absence of professional ethics, inadequate working conditions for the police officers and gaps in the supervision of police work. Police generally lack professionalism and accountability, lack immunity mechanism from many evils such as corruption and misconduct. Our police must work to develop ethics mechanism and codes of discipline to govern behavior in their relationships with the public and with their superiors and colleagues within the force by following examples from forces who have successfully dealt with such issues. Such codes already exist in many countries like UK, US, Canada and Australia.
Most of these police systems, which are national, provincial, regional or municipal, have adopted codes of conduct for their members and promote closer relations with the public. These codes of conduct define the abusive use of force and power, courtesy in relations with citizens, the observance of procedures, honesty, conflicts of interest and the treatment of offenders in detention.