The recent Sachin Waze issue has highlighted what ails the police force. Some of the issues that ails policing which are spoken or written of are – political interference, leadership issues, bad working conditions, low salaries, mismanagement etc. But rarely do we speak or write of the corruption within the Police force.
In other departments, corruption can cause a lot of hardship or harassment but the scale of hardship/harassment goes up with corruption in the Police department. In the case of Policing, corruption causes anarchy and injustice.
There are two main departments in the Police force –
- Law and Order
- Criminal Investigation.
The Law and Order division looks after the law and order situation in an area. It can prevent – crimes from happening, see that the area remains peaceful, etc. Now, what is the corruption here? All the slums that have come up and are coming up, have the blessings of this division. By now most of us are well aware that – all illegal activities – bars, shops, restaurants, illegal joints etc., which are within the purview of the police station, pay money on a regular basis, to this division. As stated earlier, one of the main causes for the anarchy we see in the system is due to this department.
The Criminal Investigation department, as the name suggests, investigates crimes that have taken place. Many times due to apathy, the quality of investigation is bad. Due to corruption, police powers can be misused and it can result in heinous crimes – fake cases, extortion, kidnapping, murders etc. Many times we find that the police officers are not interested in solving genuine crimes, since it is a burden of work. It is the poor and middle class who are more affected by this apathy. If a poor or middle-class person is the victim of a serious crime, the chances are high that his complaint goes neglected.
Since the interest in actual crime, either to prevent or to detect the crime is very low; a system called Burking is employed by the police. Whenever a crime takes place and the complainant comes to report, the crime is not properly recorded. For example – when a cognizable crime is committed, then it is shown as non-cognizable or not recorded at all. Therefore crimes are deliberately suppressed in the records. This shirking from properly recording the crime is called Burking. One reason given for burking is that, if all the crimes are properly recorded, then the number of crimes would be seen as much greater than what was reported in the earlier years, giving the impression that there is an increase in crime. The increase in the number of crimes would reflect badly on the police department but in reality, they are only reflecting the truth. This may be one reason but the real reason is more sinister. If a crime is not recorded then the work involved in the investigation and the follow-up required in the courts, can all be avoided.
Investigation requires a lot of time, patience, and hard work. Not only are more personnel required for the investigation but they have to be trained and mentored on the job to do a professional investigation. Lack of professional investigation results in lower conviction rates. Burking, misuse of powers, corruption in policing – have to be dealt with severe rules, laws, and a judicial system.
The Supreme Court had given directives based on the reforms suggested in the National Police Commission’s report. In a nutshell, the state governments are directed to:
- Constitute a State Security Commission to ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police, lay down broad policy guidelines and evaluate the performance of the state police;
- Ensure that the Director General of Police is appointed through a merit-based, transparent process and enjoys a minimum tenure of two years.
- Ensure that other police officers on operational duties have a minimum tenure of two years.
- Set up a Police Establishment Board, which will decide all transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of police officers.
- Set up independent Police Complaints Authorities at the state and district levels to look into public complaints against police officers.
- Separate the investigation and law and order functions of the police to ensure speedier investigation.
All these directives of the Supreme Court have either – not been implemented by the state governments or they are not implemented properly. Even if they are implemented well, the Waze case does show that they can be defeated if there is no integrity in the police personnel.
For better policing, some more things need to be done. Out of the eight reports submitted by the National Police Commission, the first report dealt only on the issue of how to improve the quality of work done by the Constabulary & improving their living standards. It said “ Long and arduous hours of work without facilities for rest and recreation, continuous employment on jobs under extreme conditions of stress and strain, both mental and physical, prolonged stagnation in the same rank without even one rank promotion throughout their service for a majority of them, constant exposure to criticism and ridicule by a demanding public, a totally inadequate pay structure with no compensation for the handicaps and privation they undergo in their jobs, low status and lack of involvement in planning and executing field jobs with a full understanding of the objectives set by the police organisation, etc., have all had their telling effect on the morale of the constabulary throughout the country.”
The status of a constable is that of a peon but he has much higher responsibilities. Since constabulary forms a large percent of the police force and have low motivation, how can we get better policing? In the USA a constable can rise to be a Police Commissioner but it is impossible for such a thing to happen in India. A constable should at least reach the position of ASI if not more? There is demand that we have more police personnel and that the population to police ratio is low. But the quality of Policing has to improve first. Any additions to a wrong system will only perpetrate and enhance the problems.
Another aspect of better policing is that it should be more Citizen Friendly. There is an iron wall between the public and the police. Despite India being a democracy there is very little interaction. It is not the public who have to go to the police but it is the other way round wherein it is the Police who have to reach the public. The dividends are many. In the communities and colonies, particularly in slums, there are various tensions between groups and individuals. With regular interaction, such problems can either be resolved or contained. Earlier experience in a sensitive area like Malegaon has shown that such interaction can also prevent communal disturbances. Citizen-friendly police will also help in getting criminal intelligence, either to prevent it or solve it.
To summarise bad policing has to be penalized, criminal investigation should be made professional, the lower end of the police – the constabulary have to be motivated and the policing should be made citizen-friendly.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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