Policing the police

  • The police must obey the law while enforcing the law

Feb 28, 2016-

The Nepal Police, roughly a century-old establishment in charge of preserving law and order in the country, has had a bad reputation due to various corruption scandals. From 1990 to 2015, all the 13 Inspector Generals of Police (IGP)—except Ratna Shamsher, Dhruba Bahadur Pradhan, Shyam Bhakta Thapa and Kuber Singh Rana—have faced corruption charges. This raises an important question: Have the law enforcement administrators and policy makers of Nepal failed to ensure proper ethical policing of the Nepal Police? 

The corruption prevailing in the Nepal Police has stained our image in the international arena as well. Three past IGPs and 31 senior officials were caught embezzling millions of rupees while acquiring materials for the Nepali UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan. 

Thus, it is high time that corruption in the Nepal Police is addressed seriously by the law enforcement agencies. Such dishonesty in the very establishment that is responsible to maintain law and order is not only a violation of law but also a betrayal of public trust. Police corruption surpasses almost all other forms of criminal offences.  

Police corruption is measured by the form of police deviance—a wide term that includes a range of behaviour, from acceptance of bribes to abuse of force, to drinking on the job. Generally speaking, deviance refers to actions that are in opposition to the norm or the rule. The police department needs to weed out individuals who are deviant. 

Equal effort should be put into changing organisational characteristics.

Anomie in police departments, in most parts of the world, seems to be closely aligned with outcomes associated with cynicism—a reaction to and a defence against dashed hopes. Cynicism has been found to lead to a wide range of behavioural problems among the police, including corruption. It may often originate in officers who are idealists when they join the academy but later find out that their ideals do not reflect the reality. Hence, the officers must be trained on the realities of their occupation from the beginning.  

A research titled ‘Police corruption and psychological testing: a strategy for preemployment screening’ suggests that the prediction, control, and prevention of police corruption represent pervasive and enduring problems and that intervention at the preemployment screening stage may be the best solution. Also, Monahan and Quinn state, “The central dynamic of organizational decoupling is that deviance is normalized as long as it is invisible, and disavowed when it comes to light.” It is very important for the nation’s policy makers and law enforcers to go deeply into such literature.   

The leadership in a department would need to actively communicate the connection between ethical behaviour and goals to personnel at all levels of the department. This includes, for instance, clarifying the importance of accurate reporting of incidents. Clear communication of disciplinary outcomes of deviant behaviour would decrease opportunities for deviance to breed in the police department.

Finally, whistle-blowing should be encouraged and rewarded within the police department. And the public must be taught, reminded and encouraged to blow the whistle on all kinds of corrupt practices.  

Adhikari is the author of the legal fiction ‘Rahasya: One dangerous mystery’ 

Published: 28-02-2016 08:34

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