Friday, March 25, 2011


Reforms in police administration have rarely focussed on the much-harassed policemen at the grassroots. As they play an important role at the cutting edge, they need to be trained and equipped well to meet the challenges
Reforms must begin at the grassroots
Rajbir Deswal (THE TRIBUNE)

THE policemen at the grassroots do not get the attention they deserve. When a crisis erupts suddenly at the cutting edge level, they find it difficult to handle it in the absence of adequate training. Their intelligence system often fails and things go out of control, making it difficult for even their seniors to salvage the damage done. No doubt, the hard-pressed subordinates have a plethora of jobs at hand. And each task cries for attention.

There are certain areas where the police action is characterised by highhandedness and violation of the avowed principles of police administration till the final run-up to a satisfactory and fruitful delivery of services expected by society at large. Free registration of crime is still a far cry. Complainants do not get feedback on their petitions, recoveries are fake. And witnesses are non-committal and planted.

Police continue to use third-degree methods to get quick results. Forensic science tools are not fully employed. Intelligence gathering is poor. Most arrests are unwarranted; these are made only to extract money in many cases. Poor infrastructure and resources and outdated communication equipment leave the police far behind the criminals.

Mr K. Koshy, former Director-General, Bureau of Police Research & Development, suggests various reforms in the Indian context to stem the rot. According to him, “open the reporting in police stations to the public. The sentry should concentrate on the prisoner and the malkhana, not to stand there just to intimidate the public. The reporting room should be made a pleasant place with modern bank-like atmosphere. In the UK, the reporting officers are more often than not civilians, specially trained to handle the public. Call Centre type of training should be given to those who attend the telephones. A PRO, as in the US, should be made available for giving out the latest position of cases, complaints, verifications, and other outcomes.” What we lack in Indian police is their non-appreciation of the concept of “participative policing by the people” as in Singapore; social policing as in Sweden; and community-oriented policing as in the UK, Hong Kong, Canada and the US.

Of course, some states like Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have taken a lead in this regard by enacting laws and building bridges with the community by setting up police-public committees. Ground work, delivery, action and results will flow naturally if the police adapt itself for purposes of investigation to free registration, faithful recording of a complaint (FIR), recording direct evidence corroborated by scientific and forensic attributes, not using third-degree methods, joining genuine witnesses and not from the stock, not making arrests where they are unwarranted and, above all, winning the trust and confidence of the people.

There is a need to tone up the police administration on modern lines. The police can win the hearts of the people by speedy redressal of their grievances; by making themselves available in times of crises; by being courteous; by empathising with them and, above all, by pursuing a thoroughly honest approach to every task they undertake.

The International Association of the Chiefs of Police has debated the issue of ‘Citizens Review’ which envisages “public concerns about racial profiling, excessive use of force, deliberate violations of sanctioned evidence handling procedures, and corruption creating mistrust.” The apparent failure to contain these issues causes public policymakers to consider alternatives. As these issues bear focus on the ground zero, every effort should be made to implement them. All action begins with the first-responder not only in a crisis situation but in peace time too.

The police reforms should begin with the clearly mandated assignment of tasks, fixing responsibility in case of any failure, ensuring proper and fair recruitment and putting through need-based training, regulating day-to-day policing keeping the community interests and expectations in mind, ensuring a speedy and transparent delivery of service to the stakeholders.

Police reforms at the grassroots need to correct the wrongs the functionaries indulge in, in the absence of effective supervision and no accountability fixed on them. Stringent punishment should be given to those found on the wrong side of the law. Action should be initiated against cops for their acts of collusion, highhandedness, corruption and so on. In the US, if a police officer is accused of withholding the truth, or is lying during a trial, in all cases that he stands as the official witness, his testimony is taken with a pinch of salt and is discarded as an interested witness.

There is need for separate police wings in a police station to cover four major areas: investigation and detection; law and order; regulatory duties like traffic, service of summons and warrants etc; and special cells to cater to cyber crime, economic offence, juveniles and trauma victims. It is only the tactical squad which should handle riot and arson cases where crowd control is to be exercised.

Plethora of duties

An average policeman in the country is overburdened with too many duties everyday, besides attending to calls and complaints of various kinds from the people.

Since the ground zero of all activity is the police station, action revolves around prevention, detection and investigation of crime; maintenance of public order; traffic regulation; prosecution and court duties; escorting and production of convicts and undertrials; executing summons and warrants; patrolling the areas and borders; carrying out raids; rushing to accident spots; carrying out various character verifications; VIP security; tracking gangs; and monitoring mafias on radar.

He/she is duty-bound to join parades and drills, acquire knowledge on firearms and ballistics, forensic science, cyber crime, white and blue collar crimes and on gathering intelligence.

Nowadays, the policeman is also involved in tackling crimes bearing on national and internal security, caste and regional conflicts, communications and wireless, video conferencing and crowd control.

There are certain areas where the police action is characterised by highhandedness and violation of the avowed principles of police administration till the final run-up to a satisfactory and fruitful delivery of services expected by society at large.

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