Systemic changes are yet to happen in police organisations
Police in India is a gargantuan organisation and attempts to initiate systemic changes have succeeded only to a limited extent. Considering the rapid developments India is witnessing, changes in police organisation in the country have not been keeping pace.
The reasons could be many. It could be ‘change resistance’ on the part of the police leaders who could have got so accustomed to the comforts of the ‘status quo’; or the extreme reluctance of the political leadership, which has the ultimate control over the State’s institutions like the police, to usher in changes.
India, as a result, continues to present a conflicting picture of new and rapid changes being implemented on social, economic and industrial fronts, while it appears to struggle in enforcing a change in one of its important organs like the law enforcement agencies. Another factor that further accentuates this contradiction is the availability of abundant research material and police leaders who would willingly become the agents of change. And yet, the organisational change still eludes the Indian police.
However, there have been many instances in which police leaders in their individual capacities have brought about changes in the functioning of their units and some have even attempted to initiate a culture change. But sadly, these brilliant and replicable experiments have just been confined to media reports or research papers.
This is what, Arvind Verma, author of The New Khaki: The Evolving Nature of Policing in India attempts to chronicle in his treatise. The nine chapters in this thought-provoking book deal with various aspects of the institution of police and try to identify what exactly is going on.
The author quotes several examples of sincere officers who thought out-of-the-box and implemented some changes which immediately began yielding the desired results. Examples are the initiative of an officer who opened a communication channel on email (India TopCop) which provided a platform for leaders to exchange or debate ideas; or the case of Bihar where ensuring a two-way communication channel between the police leaders and the subordinate forces led to the introduction of a system where authorities systematically pursued cases in courts and succeeded in getting convictions.
Another officer in Andhra Pradesh succeeded in implementing the WHAM (Winning Hearts and Minds) strategies to fight Maoist forces. In West Bengal, a sincere officer succeeded in curbing the practice of under-reporting or not registering the complaints. The author provides sufficient evidence to prove the efficacy of the efforts by citing statistics.
It is clear that despite the successes being witnessed and felt, these experiments did not obviously continue. Neither were they replicated elsewhere. It is in this backdrop Arvind Verma builds up a very strong argument about the need for linking the research to the field works. Through these nine chapters, he comes up with an unquestionable argument about the need to bridge the gap between the research and the practitioners on the field.
In many instances, the author does not hesitate to call a spade a spade. Be it frank references to the inability of the police leaders to welcome the change for their personal gains or to the reluctance of the politician to change the status quo, he does make some candid remarks in the book.
Apart from the example-based chapters, the author provides a macroscopic view of the situation prevailing in the country and how information technology and research could change the way police function in the rapidly changing society where criminals and terrorists begin to influence society through a variety of means including terror and technology.
Valuable contributions of officers after their retirement are referred to in detail. KPS Gill did not just win the war with terrorists in Punjab, but after his retirement began a research portal which successfully countered the challenges posed by terrorist organisations on the web. The methodical open source intelligence-based analysis and statistics by satp.org (South Asia Terrorism Portal) have become reference points for security planners not only in India but also abroad.
Similar is the role played by another retired officer Prakash Singh who never tired of moving around the courts to get the order for implementation of the police commission on tenure of officers.
If these efforts of retired officers have begun yielding the desired results, the systemic changes are yet to happen in the police organisations. One is left with the inescapable conclusion that change is considered as a one-time event and not as a continuous process in the police department in India.
THE NEW KHAKI — The Evolving Nature of Policing in India: Arvind Verma; CRC Press, 6000, Broken Sound Parkway, NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, Florida.