always at the receiving end in India
recent episode of a high ranking official personally intervening
in a case in Hyderabad once again brought to the fore the
problems of policing in our society. As a result of colonial
legacy, there is a perception that the police think and function
as an oppressive force instead of fulfilling their role as
guardians of law and order. In reality police perform their
duties honestly and every year hundreds lay down their lives
in the line of duty.
And yet, not a day goes by without allegations of political
interference in crime investigation or physical abuse by police.
The common man is terrified of dealing with the police. We
need to create a system and culture where the citizen will
start looking at the cop as a friend, and which restores the
trust and integrity in the police force. The need of the hour
is to take a fresh look at the policing needs of our society
and create a modern, accountable, transparent and efficient
force to fulfill those needs.
are many bright youngsters who enter the force with high ideals,
but are quickly demoralized by the insensitivity and humiliation
they encounter at work. Quite a few of them end up with very
low self-esteem. There is a sense of impotence and despair
enervating the constabulary.
In most western democracies, there is a clear separation of
crime investigation, with simple functions like traffic regulation,
patrolling and other incidental functions handled by a force
under the control of the local government. Public order is
usually entrusted to a separate riot police. It is this independent
crime investigation process which ensures that everyone, no
matter how mighty and powerful, is truly equal before the
law. No wonder Tony and Cherie Blair had to humbly appear
before a local inspector to receive sermons on child-rearing
when their son was caught drunk on the streets of London!
It is this insulation of crime investigation from political
vagaries, which sent the niece of President Bush to jail for
violation of parole conditions, and his minor daughter to
court facing criminal charges for purchase of alcohol.
Unfortunately in India, we don't distinguish between various
types of policing as the same force is used for regulating
traffic controlling, crowds, VIP security and crime investigation.
Consequently, we have a force, which is not only inefficient
but also grossly unprofessional and lacking in the modern
skills of crime investigation.
Crime investigation is a quasi-judicial, highly skilled function,
and we need to create an independent force with proper regulatory
mechanisms. Traffic and local functions can be under local
governments. Riot control can be under the state government.
Instead of being mindless, obedient machines in a brutalized
hierarchy, constables can be constituted into functional teams
with clear lines of responsibility. Local courts and crime
investigations can work in tandem instead of being at loggerheads
and blaming each other for breakdown of criminal justice system.
And the community and police can work in harmony, instead
of at cross purposes.
Increasing urbanization is imposing an enormous burden on
the already overstretched police force. We need practical,
sensible, humane reforms. Good and credible policing with
community participation is a great challenge of our times.
All of us have a stake in it.