ASIA: Priorities in Police Reforms 

The purpose of reforms should be to eradicate the defects that exist at present, in the police. The main defects are that the system of criminal investigations is based on primitive methodologies and the use of torture is an inherent part of such investigations, therefore the elimination of the use of torture and the development of modern techniques of criminal investigation should be the major priority in any reform; corruption is rampant within the police and the eradication of corruption should also be a priority in police reforms; The police often have to serve political masters and powerful persons and this prevents the police from serving the law as their king; Thus, bringing the police within the rule of law by eradicating their control by politicians and other powerful persons should also be a priority in police reforms.

The ultimate aim of policing is to serve the community and work in close cooperation with it in order to control crime and in the creation of a humane ethos. The achievement of that aim should be the ultimate purpose of police reforms.

The use of torture and the primitive methods of criminal investigations is due to many factors. One of the factors is that adequate funding is not provided for the administration of justice in general. No successful policing may be conducted without thorough supervision from the courts. When the system of justice is beset with extreme defects such as delays in adjudication and inefficiency in every aspect of the conduct of courts and more commonly, accusations of corruption at many levels the capacity of the courts to perform their function within the rule of law system is diminished. Many of the defects of the courts are linked to inadequate funding in the administration of justice. The lack of judges, the lack of court rooms, the facilities for the proper functioning of courts such as proper secretarial facilities and other basic facilities are among the problems that ultimately result in enormous delays in adjudication. Thus, as a result the courts cannot play the role of properly controlling the administration of justice and this works to the advantage of the police who exploit the defects to their advantage.

There are complaints of police refusing to record complaints or when they actually do so they do not investigate them properly. They also exploit these complaints to gain various advantages for themselves. Besides this the police officers very often do not have the actual power and capacity to resist the politicians who exploit the inefficiencies of the administration to their own advantage. The politicians often try to dictate to police officers what they should or should not do and this is often done for political reasons. Over all this is the power of money. Powerful persons exploit the defects in the system of administration and for this purpose they utilise the services of the police.

One of the more serious defects of the policing system is the capacity to fabricate charges against persons for various reasons. This capacity is often utilised against opposition politicians. For various financial reasons too this capacity can be utilised in order to create various problems for rivals. Fabrication of charges by police is a major threat to civil liberties in many countries.

When the people perceive these defects in the administration of justice, the courts as well as the police lose the approval by the community.

The result of all this is the alienation of the citizens from those who are engaged as officers in various capacities within the administration of justice. The overall impression in the community that the defects of the administration of justice could have dangerous consequence to themselves result in people wanting to distances themselves from these processes. By the very nature of the work of the administration of justice the system cannot function properly without the close cooperation of the people. Thus, the feelings of alienation go against the very nature of function of justice and this is a major problem that has caused a crisis for the functioning for the systems of the administration of justice.

The institution which the people are most alienated from is the police. The knowledge that the police can use force and the fear that this might be used against them makes the people develop various forms of distancing from the system. The mentality develops by which people prefer to resolve their problems by other means than by resorting to justice.

The belief within the community that justice is not possible and that the seeking of justice might bring more trouble and even greater injustice becomes the mentality barrier for the system of the administration of justice to operate. Thus, talking about the reforms of justice in general and the reform of the police in particular is one of the most difficult themes to deal with in the field of the rule of law, democracy and human rights in Asia.

In dealing with this problem what is needed most is the capacity to grasp the totality of the crisis of these systems and an ability to articulate these problems and develop a consensus within the community on the ways by which these problems need to be addressed. Without developing a discourse towards achieving consensus on effective strategies for the reforms of the administration of justice in general and the reforms of the police in particular, embarking on this task could be an enterprise which could not only be dangerous but also have many negative impacts.

In recent times there have been attempts to introduce various aspects from the more developed systems in order to improve the systems of the administration of justice in Asia. While this is commendable the possibility of achieving any success will depend very much on the contextual realities are taken into consideration when attempting such changes. Artificial attempts to adopt this or that aspect from a developed system without dealing the issue of historical sequence that is needed in dealing with such difficult problems is just a waste of time and resources.

For example, the issue of community policing is often talked about. However, when attempts are made to introduce any aspect of this soon the overall problems affecting the system confront such attempts. Thus, introducing such concepts as community policing should be accompanied by a more comprehensive approach in dealing with the priorities that need to be taken into consideration in the process of reform.

What is most needed at the moment is a more intelligent discourse that takes into consideration the many serious problems that have not been addressed over a long period of time.


Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-146-2010
Countries : Asia,