The history of police brutality in the world began with the establishment of police departments in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As shown by the early records, the labor strikes were the first large-scale incidents of police brutality in the USA, ranging from the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 to the Hanapepe Massacre of 1924. The term ‘Police Brutality’ refers to excessive, unreasonable, and improper use of police force or aggression in the name of law enforcement, particularly savage, cruel, or inhumane violence. It also includes discriminatory and illegal police practices such as torture, killings, and genocide based on caste, ethnicity, race, conviction, class, gender, or religion etc.
Our society is becoming advanced and modern day by day and every one of us is aware of this. A changing and developing society has both positive and negative aspects. But the people (of society) are neither capable nor do they have the proper and authentic rights to control or destroy all the negative aspects of the concerned society. To control or destroy them, police officers appear as the frontline for the safety and security of the people. Having said this, have the police really fulfilled their duties and roles properly? No. The police have indeed fulfilled their duty and role only to some extent.
If we observe closely at them, we can easily find out their reality & practicality i.e., abuse of power. Excepting such so-called police officers, there are also some police officers who have good intentions towards their duties and the ordinary people, and I salute them wholeheartedly.Police are, in general, considered to be the public officers or officials of the state who are responsible for maintaining peace and order in society, investigating crimes, and ensuring security. That is why, the full form of ‘POLICE’ is Public Officer for Legal Investigations and Criminal Emergencies. They are the people who are obliged and solely responsible for maintaining law and order. Their main motto is to protect and serve the people, society and finally the country.
Police brutality is a very contentious issue where the police violate human rights as well as civil rights and use excessive force against individuals & group in society or the state. Torture, illegal detention, unlawful killings, etc. fall under the category of it. Moreover, it can also include physical violence, verbal abuse or other forms of misconduct or mistreatment. The concept of police brutality is not new to us. It has been around for a long time in the world. The USA also has a remarkable and long history in this regard. As per the data of “Statista”, 680 civilians have been shot as of October 3, 2023 & 92 of them are black people. Similarly, there were 1097 fatal police shootings in 2022. Statistics show that around 1000 people are killed by mthe police there every year. Besides the killings, innocents are also subjected to many mental and physical tortures which are not only unconstitutional but also unlawful. Human rights and civil rights are equal for everyone, even if s/he is a criminal, however, the principles of human rights,fundamental rights & civil rights are not being followed properly by many police officers and this shows their adversarial nature.
Police Brutality in Nepal
The concept of police brutality is very familiar in Nepal, albeit there are enough rules, regulations, and laws to control it. Unlike foreign countries, barring a few remarkable incidents due to low accountability and non-transparency of the police department as well as the administration and government, our history or past with respect to police brutality is not based on statistics. Since many incidents are kept hidden or secret here, it is difficult to publicize statistics without proper evidence and facts.
Especially, section 13, 15(1) (c,d,g,k) of the Police Act 1955 are noteworthy here. Article 13 clearly states that no police employee shall exercise any power or authority more than that vested in or delegated to him/her under this Act or any other prevailing Act. In fact, is this provision fully followed by them? Definitely not. Similarly, according to Article 15 (1), some of the duties of the police personnel are to protect the public from unnecessary harassment, to arrest persons who must be arrested according to the law, and to behave the public decently and to treat women and children with full respect and due politeness etc. are widely ignored by them throughout the country. Serious questions were raised in this regard in the past & to address those questions, various codes of conduct were also issued from time to time. But results weren’t satisfactory and 3 years ago in September 2020, Nepal Police issued a new code of conduct by simplifying the old ones known as a ‘Simplified and Detailed Code of Conduct’ for all police personnel to follow while on duty. It has also prepared Nepal Police Action Plan, 2020 to accomplish 14 key goals. The principal objective of this code of conduct is to create a positiveattitude towards the police among the public.It calls upon all police personnel to exhibit high values and ethics and to perform their duties with dignity and integrity. In fact. Police personnel are expected to be courteous to service seekers by avoiding all forms of prejudices based on caste, creed, class, gender, and ethnicity. However, it’s very harsh to find the police personnel following the code of conduct genuinely & effectively.
In July 2016, a campaign named “PRAHARI MERO SATHI” (Police my friend) was launched all over the country, however, the campaign is limited only in bolstering the image of the police. The campaign was, as a matter of fact, not for the people of the state but for their own propaganda. Even though the campaign has started, ordinary citizens like us have not felt any
kind of friendly nature and good co-operation from them. Frankly speaking, it is very rare to find good cooperative police officers in our country.
They boast of their uniform & act as if they are the law of the state & no one is above them. Now the situation has reached such a level that the common citizens of the state are not able to raise their questions or even have a logical debate with them due to the fear of being arrested on charges of indecent behavior and conspiracy. They have fallen to the extent of having to perform their duties by consuming alcohol and other intoxicants. Now imagine how would their behavior be in such a situation. Due to their conspiracy and pressure, many innocent people nare forced to give false testimony and sent to jail. Nowadays, it is becoming a trend to make malicious prosecution and there are many examples related to it.
There are many relevant unlawful incidents done by the Nepal Police. In October 2021, 4 protestors were killed, and dozens were injured when the Nepal police used excessive force in Motipur of Rupandehi district. Similarly, after the dissolution of Parliament on December 20, 2020, by former prime minister K.P Oli, thousands upon thousands of people of the country protested his move. As a result, many people got seriously injured by the attacks of the police officers which clearly shows the violence & brutality of the police. Furthermore, in 2015, the Madhesi people who were against the constitution were shot dead by the police in 2015.The investigation so far has not been able to draw any conclusions and no police officer has been held responsible for the killings of the Madhesi protestors. There are many examples of police violence & brutality in our context, and the above mentioned are just some of the major incidents, however, there are many police violence that we must face in our daily life and there is no accounting for such minor incidents.
In my opinion, it would be no exaggeration to say that the slogan, “Police my Friend” must be scrapped immediately & “Police my insecurity” should be added instead. Police violence is indeed becoming like unpunishable crime. The question here is that if the police do not follow the prevailing laws including their code of conduct, who will take action against them or punish
them? What if they exceed their limits and jurisdiction? Yes, there are the courts and the government behind them, but the police don’t flash their real character externally and keep or settle their brutality within themselves. To be honest, no matter how many words we condemn police repression, violence & brutality, it is not enough.
Currently, there are 14 points of code of conduct in Nepal which should be strictly and honestly followed by Nepal Police. It mentions that individuals should be treated fairly without any prejudice. It is also mentioned that there should be a cordial relationship between the police officers and the youth. In essence, it has clarified the issues of public relations and meeting
conduct, discipline and brotherhood, compliance with the law, relations with the media, attitude towards dress, respect for the national flag, arrangement of greetings and respect and conduct in the kitchen. All these points of the code of conduct are largely limited to a piece of paper. In practice, the code of conduct has not been implemented mostly in terms of public relations, discipline, fraternity and compliance with the law.
Nepal Police’s own Act was enacted in 1955 and has been amended several times. Their motto is Truth, Service and Security which seems so funny when viewed objectively. Many false investigations and false statements are made to protect high class criminals and trap innocent and common people. Now how can there be truth, service, and security? In such cases if we compare between criminals, thugs, and police officers then there would be no difference. There is only one thin line difference which is the police uniform otherwise most of the behavior can be seen to be similar. There are many honest and sincere police officers, but they are also considered dishonest among the public due to undue influence, duress, and behavior of their superiors. And the supremo of the police organization does everything or is ready to do everything as per the wishes of the government, political parties, and influential politicians, and not as per the law. Apart from this, bribery and corruption also work well so the police create a feeling of insecurity and fear in the public instead of security. Thus, all citizens of the country should raise their voice on this issue because no one has the right to snatch our fundamental and civil rights, even if it is the Home Minister or the Prime Minister.Eventually, police officers, keep in mind that you are not allowed to treat the innocent and the commoners inhumanely because we are all human beings and equal in the eyes of the law. Additionally, the laws relating to and applying to you, including your Code of Conduct, call on you to exhibit high values and ethics and to perform your duties with dignity and integrity.
-Keshav Gharti Magar