One major criticism of the Indian Police is that its public relations are poor. It does not project itself properly nor does it have a clue on what most of the consumers of its service want. As a consequence, it has acquired the image of a conservative and non-caring agency with stagnant views on methods of policing.
So many scholars and police practitioners have written voluminously on the subject pleading that a consumer-oriented approach will do a world of good to the weary and weather-beaten image of the Police. Some of the works have been pedestrian, and a few strikingly refreshing.
Of the latter category is the treatise of Rohit Choudhary, an IGP of the Punjab cadre of the IPS. To his great advantage is his academic credentials — an IIT degree in engineering coupled with an IIM education. His assessment is that the police in the country can come out of the rut by adopting a modern marketing strategy that will not only improve its image of a traditional force but make it a much more effective and acceptable agency.
Choudhary is methodical and disciplined in presenting his thesis. His volume is neatly divided into two parts —‘assessment and analysis’ and ‘recommendations.’ For the first, he draws heavily on his knowledge of practices in the police force of the United Kingdom. This is the right approach because I have studied that force at close quarters and have been impressed with the modern mind of its leaders, who are forever experimenting with new ways to policing a nation that is fast acquiring all the complexities and woes of a Third World country. Illustrations from a few other countries such as the United States, Japan, Germany, and South Africa add weight to the book.
There are also glimpses of the history of Indian Police, something that will interest a foreign scholar. Such a peep into the past is fast becoming irrelevant in view of the sea-change in what the police are required to do in these tumultuous days when terrorism strikes us at every conceivable opportunity, and events like 26/11 make us wonder whether our policemen are really equipped to handle such catastrophes.
Except in brief, he does not answer the question how a marketing approach will prepare us better to cope with a terrorist assault. Perhaps a marketing-orientation helps the police to render a better account of themselves only in normal times.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a key concept in modern management that Choudhary recommends for unqualified adoption by the police. In police parlance this is analogous to the Police-Community Relations (PCR) that law enforcement agencies the world over have been practising for several decades with varying degrees of success. My own feeling is that PCR and its offspring, Community Policing, have had a modest impact on public perceptions of the police in our country.
The section on ‘recommendations’ gives meat for police reforms. Not that everything the author says is novel. A number of his suggestions are however practical and promising. He argues, rightly so, in favour of empowerment of the lower rungs of the police, one sure way of paving the way for innovation. In the higher echelons, there is a mindset that acts as a brake to decentralisation and encouragement of the bold and enterprising among those who languish at the bottom of the hierarchy. This is unfortunate at a time when more and more of the educated are coming to the agency with great hopes of making a tangible contribution to serving the community. At the same time, Choudhary warns that empowerment has to be accompanied by a sense of direction, without which we will be confronted by anarchy. There is also the need for a greater use of technology in policing. Such use will have to be systematically planned with the help of strategy groups. Otherwise, technology will be more a showpiece than an instrument for effective service delivery.
I am impressed with Choudhary’s scholarship and knowledge of what is happening in the realm of modern policing in various corners of the world. His volume is a useful exposure to many of our officers who do not otherwise have the time to learn from the experiences of fellow-policemen elsewhere in the globe.
POLICING — Reinvention Strategies in a Marketing Framework: Rohit Choudhary; Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd., B 1/I-1, Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area, Mathura Road, New Delhi-110044. Rs. 395.