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Address deficiencies for police reform

By Harekrishna Deka (Former DGP, Assam)
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Coming to any thought of police reform, the first question to answer is where it starts? I have no doubt that the police station should be the focal point of police reforms because that is the first contact point between the police and the people. If there is a trust deficit in public for police, it starts here. Certain lack/deficiencies have to be addressed at this point. I mention them below:

  • A small staff has to look after a very large area. (Police population ratio in India is 129 to 1 lakh population, it is worse in a city like Guwahati)
  • Police is too preoccupied with law and order duties to the neglect of investigation of crime. Often, preoccupation with law and order is taken as a pretext for neglecting crime.
  • In the political environment prevailing in the country, political acceptability has become the criterion for posting an officer at a police station rather than an officer�s professional competence and actual performance.
  • There is no established system of compulsory refresher-type training. After the initial training, most police officers end their career without seeing a training institute except when they are required to attend the promotion cadre course, organized generally in a routine and perfunctory manner.
  • Recruitment procedures are not transparent and in most states recruitment is not done on merit but on political recommendations or by greasing of palms. For lack of transparency, corrupt practices in transfer and postings are rampant. Some posts are considered �lucrative� and these posts carry a price. As a result, the quality of human resources suffers.
  • There is no satisfactory mechanism for police-public interface. As a result, neither the police understand the society�s security requirement nor do the people understand police difficulties.
  • The beat system has stopped functioning because a small police station staff has to perform too many other duties with inadequate manpower. Much of their time as well as their energy get spent on VIP security duties. The beat system is a very useful way of gaining local knowledge, understanding prevailing social climate, remaining visible, gaining familiarity with citizens, collecting criminal intelligence. Each police station should have a number of beats, properly notified, and sanction of manpower for a police station should take account of the requirement of the beat.
  • For prompt response, police need dependable communication and transport system. In most police stations, they do so with outdated communication equipment and transport. There is no established system of periodic review for updating these according to the changing requirement of time. Police is also slow in adopting new technology and adapting to it. In use of technology, the criminal world has been outpacing the police.
  • Although the bulk of the staff in a police station comprises constables, they hardly perform functionally useful duty as indicated above. The colonial government did not want to assign any important duty to the constables. The Police Commission of 1902 wanted that the �duties of a police constable should be of mechanical character� and �duties requiring discretion and judgment� should not be entrusted to them. There is no change of perception even now in this regard and therefore there is a huge waste of manpower resources.
  • Police in India is reactive � that is they are used to respond after an event takes place. The approach to crime has to change to a preventive-proactive mode.
  • Most police stations do not have a women cell staffed by women police officers. Women victims of incidents find it uncomfortable to open up before male police officers.
  • Guwahati has become a metro with rapid increase of population and the present police system is obsolete. Every time something serious happens, the Government covers it up by some patchwork arrangement. It is right time it realizes that Guwahati must have a police commissionrate and cosmetic changes are only eye-wash. If police fails in Guwahati, the Government also fails here.

    The new Assam Police Act has failed to address many of these requirements. The State needs to think of amending the Act to make it a proper framework for democratic policing.

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    Address deficiencies for police reform

    Coming to any thought of police reform, the first question to answer is where it starts? I have no doubt that the police station should be the focal point of police reforms because that is the first contact point between the police and the people. If there is a trust deficit in public for police, it starts here. Certain lack/deficiencies have to be addressed at this point. I mention them below:

  • A small staff has to look after a very large area. (Police population ratio in India is 129 to 1 lakh population, it is worse in a city like Guwahati)
  • Police is too preoccupied with law and order duties to the neglect of investigation of crime. Often, preoccupation with law and order is taken as a pretext for neglecting crime.
  • In the political environment prevailing in the country, political acceptability has become the criterion for posting an officer at a police station rather than an officer�s professional competence and actual performance.
  • There is no established system of compulsory refresher-type training. After the initial training, most police officers end their career without seeing a training institute except when they are required to attend the promotion cadre course, organized generally in a routine and perfunctory manner.
  • Recruitment procedures are not transparent and in most states recruitment is not done on merit but on political recommendations or by greasing of palms. For lack of transparency, corrupt practices in transfer and postings are rampant. Some posts are considered �lucrative� and these posts carry a price. As a result, the quality of human resources suffers.
  • There is no satisfactory mechanism for police-public interface. As a result, neither the police understand the society�s security requirement nor do the people understand police difficulties.
  • The beat system has stopped functioning because a small police station staff has to perform too many other duties with inadequate manpower. Much of their time as well as their energy get spent on VIP security duties. The beat system is a very useful way of gaining local knowledge, understanding prevailing social climate, remaining visible, gaining familiarity with citizens, collecting criminal intelligence. Each police station should have a number of beats, properly notified, and sanction of manpower for a police station should take account of the requirement of the beat.
  • For prompt response, police need dependable communication and transport system. In most police stations, they do so with outdated communication equipment and transport. There is no established system of periodic review for updating these according to the changing requirement of time. Police is also slow in adopting new technology and adapting to it. In use of technology, the criminal world has been outpacing the police.
  • Although the bulk of the staff in a police station comprises constables, they hardly perform functionally useful duty as indicated above. The colonial government did not want to assign any important duty to the constables. The Police Commission of 1902 wanted that the �duties of a police constable should be of mechanical character� and �duties requiring discretion and judgment� should not be entrusted to them. There is no change of perception even now in this regard and therefore there is a huge waste of manpower resources.
  • Police in India is reactive � that is they are used to respond after an event takes place. The approach to crime has to change to a preventive-proactive mode.
  • Most police stations do not have a women cell staffed by women police officers. Women victims of incidents find it uncomfortable to open up before male police officers.
  • Guwahati has become a metro with rapid increase of population and the present police system is obsolete. Every time something serious happens, the Government covers it up by some patchwork arrangement. It is right time it realizes that Guwahati must have a police commissionrate and cosmetic changes are only eye-wash. If police fails in Guwahati, the Government also fails here.

    The new Assam Police Act has failed to address many of these requirements. The State needs to think of amending the Act to make it a proper framework for democratic policing.

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