Working together

Thimphu motorists were taken by surprise yesterday morning when uniformed men stopped their cars, peeped inside and waved them through their check points. They knew the cops were looking for something but didn’t know what.

Details are flimsy because there is no flow of information, despite repeated attempts. But Kuensel learnt that two detainees from the city’s police station escaped right under the very noses of the police, that too, while in handcuffs. The duo, detained for a suspected burglary case, reportedly asked for permission to visit the toilet and then escaped.

Police have reportedly rearrested one of the escapees, but the other one is still at large with police still searching for them. Prison breaks or escaping from police custody, when charged for crimes, makes news headlines globally. However, it is not because of a lack of cooperation or missing a story, but for the importance of information for the public that we editorialise such issues.

From our experience with media globally and going by international best practices, the media is alerted first during a prison break or when detainees abscond. Details of escapees with pictures occupy most of the TV time, and today, authorities worldwide have turned to using social media.

This is because when someone escapes from the law, those chasing them need a lot of luck and all the help the public can offer. This help can come from the most unexpected sources. An aware public would be a good source of information if they were aware of what the cops are looking for. We hear so many success stories of the public helping out the authorities to nab criminals, some for no reward even.

The first line of communication is to let the public know that a detainee or a prisoner is at large including information on how dangerous they can be. It may create some panic, but it can also warn people of the dangers lurking in their neighbourhoods. It might even help them get caught, since the public will keep an eye out for the escapees. The escapees in question here may be accused of burglary, but analysts say that an escapee could turn more dangerous as they are desperate to escape the arms of the law. Some warn they could resort to violence to ensure they don’t get recaptured.

It is not the kind of holiday eve you look forward to especially if you are the police on duty or the officer in charge. Prisoners escaping from jails or detainees running away from custody happen everywhere, including in places where the security systems are sophisticated. It is not new and will keep happening. But there is also something very wrong when a law enforcement agency hides information from the public or the media. Not only could such information lead to a faster re-arrest and have a potentially dangerous criminal back behind bars, perhaps even saving lives, but it also reaks of an old fashioned cover up that in a highly digitalised and interconnected society is simply redundant.

A few may come under scrutiny, but the priority during such time is to recapture the escapees and all cooperation and help is needed. Help can come only with knowing what is happening.

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