In the past few months , police in India has not accounted itself well in delivering transparent, accountable service to the poor and needy in crisis.
Their performance in dealing with the various hues of law and order has been dismal, appalling and above all asymmetric.
It is better tuned to deliver good service to rich rather than the poor.
The recent Delhi riots, the authoritarian style of implementing the COVID-19 lock down and dealing with the dis oriented migrant labourers during the Covid -19 period wherein they donned the role of saviours and villains, getting knocked down like ninepins by criminal gangs in Uttar Pradesh, knocking down the gang responsible one by one with impunity and the brutal custodial death of two accused in Tuticorin Tamil Nadu clearly underlines and highlights that not all is well with the Indian police.
Police reforms have been repeatedly discussed for the past 160 years.
Since the first police reform report in 1860, there has been no dearth of large number of expert committee reports, working groups, reports of the various commissions and intervention of the Supreme Court on police reform.
In spite of plethora of recommendations our police is still not in line with democratic ideals and current needs.
It very ironic to note that the first enquiry commission was on torture by police in Madras presidency in the year 1855 and after165 years we still face the serious problem of custodial deaths even now in 2020 with a figure of 1966 custodial deaths in 2018.
This scenario further underlines the serious comprehensive systems defect in our country’s eco system which perhaps encourages the present concept of high handed policing.
No doubt the Indian police has come a long way due to police reforms.
Now it has better vehicles, body cameras ,latest computers with crime criminal tracking network system , Drones, CCTV network, better accommodation, better training with better work exposure and better interstate and intra state coordination.
We may have modernised our overall working, but basic working stills banks on extra constitutional methods.
If we dispassionately look into the reasons and causes for this highhanded behaviour, an all pervasive social eco system which silently encourages a quadratic nexus of the policeman, politician, criminals and judiciary would stand out.
Now let us analyse the eco system of our society.
Our society is patriarchal with stratified caste base system which permits highhanded behaviour as a part of our sub culture.
This sub culture is evident in our society when we see the ever increasing crime against women, dowry deaths, witch craft related killings, female infanticide, rape, human trafficking, domestic violence, abduction, mob lynching and crime against SC and ST community.
Acceptance of violence is latently embedded in our subculture which has manifested as the culture of impunity in our society over a period of time.
A policeman who comes from a society with a culture of impunity cannot be different when he deals with vulnerable poor people with coercive powers empowered on him.
Sometimes the society itself expects police to be high handed and brands it as a soft police if it does not do so.
The behaviour of the society in garlanding the police officers after the recent killing of the four gang rape accused in an early morning encounter in Hyderabad is a case in point.
The yet another proof is the society celebrating police officers who are known to eliminate people in encounters and the abnormal profits made by the Bollywood movies which eulogise policeman who are law onto themselves dispensing justice thru illegal means .
The uncensored police torture scene in movies lapped up by the audience as a permissible method also has latent impact on the mind of the policeman to resort to it when he feels it is needed.
Sometimes it even convinces the people that best way to eliminate crime is thru extra-legal methods.
The mixed response of the society to the recent encounter killing of Vikas Dubey is yet another example which highlights the state of affairs of the eco system of the society in which Indian Police works .
A society which does not believe in the concept of law and order cannot expect police to be different from them.
The judiciary which is also a part of this social eco system also mocks on the police for not demanding police remand or even hints at police as to why the accused was not interrogated in police custody to bring out facts knowing fully the evidentiary value of such facts.
Judiciary sometimes tactfully connives with the local police to overlook any physical excess by police giving silent cues which make policeman resort to violence.
This eco system in turn works as the foundation for building the police- criminal-political –judicial quadratic nexus cemented by rampant corruption, which makes police carry out duty beyond the contours of our law.
Experience indicates that if the corruption in police is reduced, the police will stand reformed substantially.
The uncontrolled rampant corruption which is generally overlooked, acts as bond to strengthen the police – politician –criminal nexus which ultimately makes the judiciary to fall in line and make a strong quadratic nexus setting the stage for misuse of position and police powers .It drives them to the extent that they kill law to maintain order instead of maintaining Law and Order.
The latest incident of a senior police officer who always enjoyed price postings being caught on camera receiving bundles of currencies from his subordinates is the proof of this nexus.
There are many ways to deal with the nexus and eco system of our society which sustains it.
The climate can be easily change if society is also made to share the responsibility of maintaining law and order with police by involving the society in Community policing. Involving society will make society responsible and act as an oversight on the performance of the police shaking the foundation of the quadratic nexus.
This can also weaken the corruption in the system which acts as cement for the quadratic nexus. Community policing with a stake for the responsible local public in people friendly policing will go a long way to improve the performance oversight of Indian police.
Now to deal with the quadratic nexus we need to approach the problem at multilevel. The first and foremost is the training of Indian police. Demilitarise police training at all levels.
Train them in personality analysis and psychologically dealing with criminals instead of third degree methodology which often passed on thru word of mouth or by a demo to a new inductee.
Train them on communication skills to make them good communicators and experts in problem solving skills .Train them on ways and means to remain physically fit till their retirement and finally train them on the concept of community policing where the police goes to public for service delivery instead of public coming to the police station.
While all the other modernisation programme should relentlessly continue on war footing.
Simultaneously all round effort should be made improve the service delivery of the judiciary so that it does not become part of the nexus .All round effort should be made to ensure that the politicians do not interfere in the transfer and posting of pliable officers.
The fixed tenure order of the Supreme Court of India should be implemented in letter and spirit not on made up compliance.
Implementing this people friendly community policing is not as easy as it is been spoken. The policeman at the grass root will never like to switch over from enforcement mode to service delivery mode.
It is very difficult to lock the genie of highhanded behaviour genetically inherited by the Indian police in the year 1947, from the 90 year old British India police .
The idea of losing the king sized ego of being all powerful and loosing extra corrupt income will always come in the way for successfully implementing the concept of people friendly police.
It will involve top down and bottom up approach to bring around the change management from enforcement to service delivery.
The police leadership will have to play an important role and ensure political person do not get into the community policing and fund the initiative.
One such successful initiative was carried out in the year 2010-2011 in the state of Tripura by name PRAYAS. A beat level community policing with the officer uncharged at the apex .
This platform was successfully used to bring down the crime against women and road accidents with the involvement of the society. NCRB statistics of Tripura for the year 2010 t0 2013 will vouch for it.
The simple system followed in that state was that each police station was divided into number of beats equal to the number of personnel’s posted in the police station.
Each beat had a community beat committee with the beat officer in charge of the beat community.
The apolitical responsible willing citizens were selected by the officer in charge of the police station for each beat under the supervision of the respective supervising officers for following up the concept of Community policing.
The beat officer is always available in the community for any intervention and also to educate the citizens on how they can assist police in improving their service delivery.
Weekly mandate is decided by the district SP based on the issues for educating the community in the beat area concerned.
Monthly meeting is carried out by the beat committee with the citizens of the area The DGP based on the crime analysis also gives monthly mandate on the topics to be taken to educate the public through community policing like crime against women, Dowry deaths, traffic awareness to reduce traffic accidents, precautions to be taken to reduce property offences and drive against illegal activities in the respective areas.
Well where there is a will there is a way. The best way to reform our police is to make our society involved in assisting the police and demand service delivery of police at their doorsteps through community policing instead being delivered inside the police stations.
The society should be the oversight committee on the performance of Police within the norms of rule of law and also act as the bridge between police and the government to sensitise the government to provide whatever facilities the policeman needs for effective symmetric delivery of service to the poor and rich. This will revolutionise the policing of our country.
( Dr K Saleem Ali , IPS has been a Special Director at CBI and headed the Tripura Police during the worst years of insurgency in the state)