October 7, 2022

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination

POLICE-PUBLIC RELATIONS-WHY POLICE REFORMS ALONE WON’T REVIVE PUBLIC TRUST IN POLICE?

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THE CONTEXT: The police in a democracy works for the welfare of “citizens” unlike in an authoritarian system where it acts for the welfare of the “rulers”. Police being a part of a larger social milieu, reforms in police will not be enough to build bridges between them and the people. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has noted that police-public relations are in an unsatisfactory state because people view the police as corrupt, inefficient, politically partisan and unresponsive.

An analysis of how public trust in the police has evolved between 2005 and 2012 based on the India Human Development Survey released in 2015 reveals the following. In 2005, about 23% of the surveyed households expressed a great deal of confidence in the police; over 49% only some confidence; and 28% had hardly any confidence. In 2012, there was a rise in the share of those with a great deal of confidence to 27%; those with only some confidence remained unchanged (about 50%), and those with hardly any confidence fell to 22%. Thus, confidence in the police rose over that period, but moderately. This data proves that peoples’ confidence in the police is rather sub optimal and requires some heavy lifting.

Also, in the context of the pandemic, a cooperative relationship between the police and the populace is vital for not only managing the pandemic but also addressing the post-Covid developmental challenges. In this background, this article looks at the various aspects of this pressing issue so that candidates can have a clear grasp of this subject matter.

. Who is the police and what are its duties and functions?

  • Police are the function of that branch of the administrative machinery of government that is charged with the preservation of public order and tranquillity, the promotion of public health, safety, and morals, and the prevention, detection, and punishment of crimes.
  • The police Act, 1861 is an important statute that highlights the functions and powers of police officers.
  • The preamble to this Act states, “it is expedient to reorganize the police and to make it a more efficient instrument for the prevention and detection of crime”
  • Therefore, another definition of ‘Police’ can be construed from the preamble which is Police is an instrument whose objective is the prevention and detection of crime.
  • Section 57 of the Model Police Act, 2006, lays down the roles, functions and duties of the police. Following are the important provisions of the said Section. Section 57 states as follows,
  • to uphold and enforce the law impartially, and to protect life, liberty, property, human rights, and dignity of the members of the public;
  • to promote and preserve public order;
  • to protect internal security, to prevent and control terrorist activities, breaches of communal harmony, militant activities and other situations affecting Internal Security;
  • to protect public properties including roads, railways, bridges, vital installations and establishments etc. against acts of vandalism, violence or any kind of attack;
  • to prevent crimes, and reduce the opportunities for the commission of crimes through their own preventive action and measures as well as by aiding and cooperating with other relevant agencies in implementing due measures for prevention of crimes;
  • to create and maintain a feeling of security in the community, and as far as possible prevent conflicts and promote amity; etc.

 

Social Responsibilities of the police

Social Responsibilities as mentioned under Section 58 of Model Police Act, 2006 are as follows.

  • behave with the members of the public with due courtesy and decorum, particularly so in dealing with senior citizens, women, and children;
  • guide and assist members of the public, particularly senior citizens, women, children, the poor and indigent and the physically or mentally challenged individuals, who are found in helpless condition on the streets or other public places or otherwise need help and protection;
  • ensure that in all situations, especially during the conflict between communities, classes, castes and political groups, the conduct of the police is always governed by the principles of impartiality and human rights norms, with special attention to the protection of weaker sections including minorities;
  • render all requisite assistance to the members of the public, particularly women, children, and the poor and indigent persons, against criminal exploitation by any person or organised group;

From the above, it becomes clear that the police becomes handicapped without active support from citizens across the whole chain of police functions. This support will only come when there is trust between both. For instance, when the people have fear of the police, then no cooperation is possible between them. This further reinforces the trust deficit. But despite the provisions for a cooperative working relationship between the police and public under the statutes, there exists a deep distrust of police in the minds of the general public.

 

 

WHY IS THERE A DEEP TRUST DEFICIT?

  • Police as a Regime force: The common man perceives police as an instrument of the governments for achieving their political objectives. For instance, A Delhi court has remarked that investigation into a case related to the communal violence in northeast Delhi seemed to be “targeted only towards one end” while asking the Delhi police to ensure a fair investigation.
  • The politicisation of the police: According to former Mumbai Police Commissioner, Julio Ribeiro “A sizeable percentage of officers today carry an invisible stamp on their foreheads showing their loyalty to a particular party”. The ambition of the senior IPS officers to occupy posts of importance is a major contributory factor to the Politicisation. When the seniors surrender their authority by complying with requests from politicians, corruption increases and the investigation of crime in sensitive cases are based not on facts and law but on the wishes and interests of the politician in power.
  • Nexus and Corruption: The nexus between criminals, politicians and police functionaries have, over the years, assumed very dangerous proportions. Even after the Vohra committee in 1993 has highlighted the issue, things have not changed much. For instance, The Maharashtra Police department has the most corruption complaints against it among 44 state government departments in the bribery list released for 2019 by the anti-corruption bureau (ACB).
  • Police Impunity: On May 22, 1987, 19 personnel from UP police rounded up 42 Muslim youths from the Hashimpuramohalla (locality) of Meerut, shot them in cold blood and dumped their bodies in a nearby irrigation canal. As many as 16 of the 19 accused policemen surrendered only in May 2000 –three of them died in the intervening period — and were enlarged on bail, before getting acquitted by a Tis Hazari court to which the case was transferred in 2002 from Ghaziabad by the Supreme Court. It was only on October 31, 2018, that Delhi High Court overturned the decision, convicting all 16 and sentencing them to life imprisonment.
  • Custodial Violence: The brutal and brazen killing of Jayaraj and Bennix in Tamil Nadu Police’s custody has rightfully caused a public outcry against those in uniform. According to an analysis of the NCRB data as many as 255 people died in police custody in three years from 2017-2019, but only three police personnel were convicted in these cases in these years

According to the recently released 2019 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, a total of 85 people died in police custody in 2019 for which only 23 arrests were made.

  • Bias in Police: As per, Status of Policing in India Report 2019 (SPIR 2019) prepared by the NGO Common Cause and Loknitiprogramme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS),  about half of the police personnel reported that Muslims were ‘naturally prone’ towards committing violence. ‘Police personnel in four of the states surveyed, namely, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Bihar, had about two-third or more police personnel who held this view. Four out of five police personnel from Uttarakhand held this opinion,’ the report states. ‘Police personnel from Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh have the highest proportion of those believing that people from Dalit communities are highly likely to be naturally prone towards committing crimes,’ says the report.
  • The fear of police: SPIR 2018 found that 14 per cent of the citizens are highly fearful of the police, and 30 per cent are somewhat fearful of the police. Further, it was found that people fearful of the police are less likely to report willingness to approach the police even if there is a need. Police personnel seem to recognise that common people nurture an inherent fear of the institution and hence, are reluctant to approach them.
  • Attitude towards mob violence: In recent years, numerous cases of mob violence against individuals (‘mob lynching’) on suspicions of cow-slaughter, kidnapping, etc. have been reported, and the police is known to have played an enabling role for the people engaging in such forms of violence. While more than one in every three police personnel believe it to be natural for a mob to punish the alleged culprit in a case of cow-slaughter (‘to a large extent and ‘somewhat’ combined), about two in every five believe so in other three cases of crimes,’ says the report.
  • Poor Police Reforms: Almost all the points mentioned above come under the purview of reforms in police. Despite numerous expert committee recommendations and the SC directions, even rudimentary reforms in police not been carried out. For instance, The Justice Thomas committee tasked by the SC to monitor police reforms implementation was dismayed by the total apathy of the state governments in carrying out the reforms.

police reforms in india: an overview

  • Various expert bodies have examined issues with police organisation and functioning over the last few decades.
  • The recommendations of these commissions and committees have been largely ignored by the governments and in the Prakash Singh case 2006, the SC has given the following directions for police reforms. These directives more or less summarises the recommendations of various commissions.
    • Constitute a State Security Commission in every state that will lay down policy for police functioning, evaluate police performance, and ensure that state governments do not exercise unwarranted influence on the police.
    • Constitute a Police Establishment Board in every state that will decide postings, transfers and promotions for officers below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, and make recommendations to the state government for officers of higher ranks.
    • Constitute Police Complaints Authorities at the state and district levels to inquire into allegations of serious misconduct and abuse of power by police personnel.
    • Provide a minimum tenure of at least two years for the DGP and other key police officers (e.g., officers in charge of a police station and district) within the state forces, and the Chiefs of the central forces to protect them against arbitrary transfers and postings.
    • Ensure that the DGP of state police is appointed from amongst three senior-most officers who have been empanelled for the promotion by the Union Public Service Commission on the basis of length of service, good record and experience.
    • Separate the investigating police from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people.
    • Constitute a National Security Commission to shortlist the candidates for appointment as Chiefs of the central armed police forces.

Implementation:  According to a report of the NITI Aayog (2016), of 35 states and UTs (excluding Telangana), State Security Commissions had been set up in all but two states, and Police Establishments Boards in all states.31  The two states in which the State Security Commissions were not set up by August 2016 were Jammu and Kashmir and Odisha.  Note that the report also found that the composition and powers of the State Security Commissions and the Police Establishment Boards were at variance with the Supreme Court directions.  For example, in states such as Bihar, Gujarat and Punjab, the State Security Commission were dominated by government and police officers.  Further, many of these Commissions did not have the power to issue binding recommendations. In other words, these directions by the SC are observed more in breach by the Governments till today. Even the Police Acts enacted were a mere rehash of the Police Act 1861.

role of police reforms in building public trust

S.NO AREA OF REFORM                       REFORM AND IMPACT
1 POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY:

 

 

  • The Second Administrative Reforms Commission and the Supreme Court have observed that there is a need to have an independent complaints authority to inquire into cases of police misconduct
  •  The independent complaints authority can create a conducive environment for people to fearlessly voice their complaints. Action taken by the authority will lead to changes in police behaviour towards citizens.
2 VACANCIES AND OVERBURDENED POLICE
  • Currently, there are significant vacancies within the state police forces and some of the central armed police forces.
  • As per the Bureau of Police Research and Development report of January 2016, the total sanctioned strength of state police forces across India was 22, 80,691, with 24% vacancies (i.e. 5, 49,025 vacancies).
  • The filling up of vacancies can enhance the police efficiency thereby redressing public grievances.
3 POLICE INFRASTRUCTURE
  • Modern policing requires a strong communication support, state-of-art or modern weapons, and a high degree of mobility. 
  •  The CAG has found that the weaponry of several state police forces is outdated, and the acquisition process of weapons is slow, causing a shortage in arms and ammunition.
  • A better police infrastructure can improve the professional work culture of the police thereby building public trust.
4 REGISTRATION OF FIRs
  •   In the landmark case of Lalita Kumari vs Government of Uttar Pradesh, 2013, the Supreme Court held that if a victim’s statement discloses information about a cognisable offence, the registration of the FIR is mandatory.
  •  Yet, it is common for police personnel to refuse filing FIRs even in serious, cognisable cases,’ says the Status of Policing in India Report 2019 (SPIR 2019)
5 CONSTABULARY RELATED ISSUES
  • The constabulary constitutes 86% of the state police forces.
  • A constable is expected to exercise his own judgement in tasks like intelligence gathering, and surveillance work, and report to his superior officers regarding significant developments.
  • He assists with investigations and is also the first point of contact for the public.
  • Therefore, a constable is expected to have some analytical and decision-making capabilities, and the ability to deal with people with tact, understanding and firmness.
  •  The Padmanabhaiah Committee and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission have noted that the entry level qualifications (i.e. completion of class 10th or 12th in many states) and training of constables do not qualify them for their role.
  • One of the recommendations made in this regard has been to raise the qualification for entry into the civil police to class 12th or graduation.
  • It has also been recommended that constables, and the police force in general, should receive greater training in soft skills (such as communication, counselling and leadership) given they need to deal with the public regularly.
6 COMMUNITY POLICING
  • Police require the confidence, cooperation and support of the community to prevent crime and disorder.
  •  For example, police personnel rely on members of the community to be informers and witnesses in any criminal investigation.
  • Therefore, police-public relations is an important concern of ineffective policing.
  • One of the ways of addressing this challenge is through the community policing model

COMMUNITY POLICING: A MODEL FOR BETTER PUBLIC POLICE RELATION

  • Community policing requires the police to work with the community for prevention and detection of crime, maintenance of public order, and resolving local conflicts, with the objective of providing a better quality of life and sense of security.
  • It may include patrolling by the police for non-emergency interactions with the public, actively soliciting requests for service not involving criminal matters, community-based crime prevention and creating mechanisms for grassroots feedback from the community.
  • Various states have been experimenting with community policing including Kerala through ‘Janamaithri Suraksha Project’, Rajasthan through ‘Joint Patrolling Committees’, Assam through ‘MeiraPaibi’, Tamil Nadu through ‘Friends of Police’, West Bengal through the ‘Community Policing Project’, Andhra Pradesh through ‘Maithri and Maharashtra through ‘Mohalla Committees’

why police reforms are not enough?

What is missed in the call for police reforms are the inherent biases of the police that have been exacerbated in many states and Union territories by discriminatory legislation like the Citizenship Amendment Act, a variety of state laws on cow slaughter and so-called ‘love jihad’, and a political atmosphere favouring their ruthless application. Protests have been crushed and innocent lives have been lost, even as the accused in cases of ‘cow lynching’ have largely gotten away while the police turned a blind eye, and first information reports are filed against the hapless victims who are mostly Muslims and/or Dalits

The Status of Policing in India Report for 2018 revealed that police personnel have an inherent bias against minorities and marginalized sections of Hindus such as Dalits. About half the police personnel were reported to hold the view that Muslims were “naturally prone” to committing violence

Other critical areas like rampant political interference, depiction of police in cinema, issues in the criminal justice system, ineffective legislative control and the faulty socialization processes etc must also be reformed for enhancing public trust in police.

what more measures need to be taken?

S. NO SPHERE OF REFORMS CONTENT OF REFORM
1 POLITICAL/ELECTORAL REFORMS Measures for checking criminalization of politics through changes in electoral funding rules, fast track courts for speedy trials of politicians etc can reduce rampant misuse of police machinery for partisan purposes. This can lead to police autonomy and enhanced professionalism.
2 LEGAL REFORMS Laws dealing with criminal activity provides high scope for police discretion, especially in cognizable offences. For instance Section 124A of IPC dealing with sedition and Section 153A related to promoting enmity between groups. Also, the vague and overarching terms in-laws like UAPA, IT Act 2000, etc provide huge scope for abuse of these laws by police. In PUCL Vs. Union of India, 2021, the Supreme Court felt appalled after finding that people are still being booked and tried under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which has been scrapped for six long years for being “unconstitutional and a violation of free speech.
3 POPULAR CULTURE The role played by popular cinema in glamourizing the no-nonsense, tough-on-crime cop has certainly played a role in normalizing police violence. It encourages lynch-mob vigilantism as justice. Realistic portrayal of police in the medium of popular culture can change the popular and police perception about each other.
4 JUDICIAL SENSITIVITY The long delay in justice delivery and pendency of cases in courts result in people losing faith in rule of law. This has a direct bearing on police-public relations which will be marked by confrontation and conflict. AlsoJudicial response to custodial violence has been erratic, and despite the Supreme Court’s guidelines in DK Basu’s case, the rate of conviction in custodial violence or death claims continues to below.
5 ROLE OF PROSECUTION Prosecution plays a crucial role in the criminal justice system. An independent and professional prosecution setup can address the frivolous and motivated arrest of innocents by the police.
6 CIVIL SOCIETY ACTIVISM  Equally important is the public outrage over police brutality or deaths which has been largely missing from India. It is in sharp contrast with the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. Citizens’ participation can galvanise different societal elements coming together to correct injustices.
7 PARLIAMENTARY CONTROL The legislative control over the police through questions, debates, scrutiny in standing committees etc are largely missing. Hardly, a meaningful discussion takes place on police omissions and commissions in these forums. Thus relentless and consistent watch must be kept by the “people’s institutions” on police. Ideally, the governments both at the centre and states must come up with an annual white paper on state policing in India which must be debated in the parliament and state legislatures.
8 ROLE OF CITIZENRY. Building trust is a two-way process. A law-abiding citizenry will definitely contribute to lesser law and order problems in society. Thus the coercive nature of police will not be visible as often due to the reduction of conflicts in society. So people have a responsibility to their fellow beings and to society and the country at large. Such a civic conscious populace will create conditions for cordial and cooperative engagement with the police.
9 e- GOVERNANCE The India Justice Report (IJR) 2020 supported by Tata Trusts has studied the e-portals of various state police organisations that provide citizen-centric services such as requests for issue/renewal of various NOCs, verification requests for servants, employment, passport, etc.

The report mentions that “despite the push for digitization, no state offered the complete bouquet of services…

Users face numerous problems of accessibility to these services.

Several portals did not work despite repeated attempts over three months.


THE WAY FORWARD

  • Civil society must exert pressure on the executive and the judiciary through advocacy, research reports, PILs etc. While providing constructive suggestions for addressing the lack of public trust in police, it can also put moral pressure on these institutions to act quickly.
  • The Law Commissions must be mandated to comprehensively study and review the legal and administrative aspects of policing environment and recommend measures to make the police a people’s police.
  • Local government authorities must be empowered to have some degree of supervision and control over local police. This will improve the police responsiveness to the concerns of general public leading to greater trust.
  • E-governance is an effective way to help the overburdened beat and police station officers as well as harried citizens. User-friendly citizens portals for obtaining passports and driving licences have been game-changers.
  • The IJR 2020 audit confirms that states need to invest more resources to upgrade their e-portals for providing the 45 identified basic services to the citizens. This is a task that police leadership can concentrate on without any political interference
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) earmarked about Rs 20,000 crore for the modernisation of police (2017-2020), for schemes such as crime and criminal tracing networks and systems (CCTNS), police wireless and e-prisons. States can take up this crucial service delivery mechanism.

CONCLUSION:The Indian police has been conceived and operationalised as a “force” and not as a “service”. It is not surprising because the Indian Police has been modelled on the “Irish Constabulary System” of the 19th century in the United Kingdom. The objective of this policy was to “instil fear in the minds of people’. On the other hand, the London Police worked on the philosophy of “police are public and the public is the police”. Thus, the ethos of Indian police still largely resembles the structural. cultural and functional aspects of colonial British Indian police.

Although, these aspects can be dealt with by comprehensive police reforms the larger issues of changes in politics, bureaucracy, legal system and judiciary, cultural milieu and social capital etc must also be addressed simultaneously. The buzzword of 21st-century government is “good governance” and in Indian context it is “sabkasaathsabkavikas and sabkaviswas”. Achievement of this ideal demands a trust-based relation between police and the citizens.

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