When it comes to women in police, Tamil Nadu has several firsts. The State made history when it introduced 30 per cent reservation for women in the police force in December 1995, appointed Letika Saran, a1976-batch IPS officer, as the Chennai Police Commissioner in April 2006 and later made her the Director-General of Police (Law and Order) to head the Police Department in January 2010.
All Women Police Station (AWPS), a high-visibility initiative of women-only policing, took off in 1992. Today, the State has 198 AWPS, the largest number in the country. An impressive 10,138 women serve in different ranks, and the Uniformed Services Recruitment Board has notified recruitment of 1,891 women constables. Women commandos match their male counterparts in combat and firing skills.
Now for some disappointments: the deployment of women police is apparently confined to the reception at police stations, counselling centres, festival security, crowd management on beaches, at temples and public gatherings, on VIP convoy route and so on. Women personnel are not encountered frequently in crime investigation, intelligence operations, riot control and disaster management.
Though there has been hardly any instance of a police woman being attacked while on duty at a scene of violence, there are some complaints of misbehaviour by unruly mobs. Additional Director-General of Police (Training) Archana Ramasundaram feels that both men and women are vulnerable at riot scenes.
“Institutional training is the same for both at the Police Training College. Some policewomen prefer taking up the so-called lighter jobs owing to domestic compulsions. That doesn’t mean they are unwilling to be in the forefront of action. Sometimes, they have an equally important role to play at home…”
Ms. Ramasundaram feels that the presence of women personnel is crucial, given that more women and children are participating in protests. “A majority of women trainees with whom I interact are keen on achieving professional excellence. Some officers prefer not to involve them in intelligence operations or criminal investigation as it requires work at odd hours and also interaction with different kinds of people. Women have to manage the family, children and home after work…we have to create more support systems at the workplace,” she adds.