Needed: A firm, but humane police force

Criminality of the police impacts public trust in the force

Published - July 28, 2018 10:08 pm IST - KOCHI

One persistent criticism about the State police has been that their training, procedures and method of functioning are far from adequate to measure up to the concept of ‘civil society’. Every time a case of civil rights violation has come up, there has been a furore, the police force being accused of insensitivity and scant regard for human rights. Official response to such situations has mostly ended with a suspension or a transfer, a completely inadequate way of addressing the deeper questions of human liberty in a democratic State.

What do those who have been closely associated with the State police think about the problem and what solutions do they have in mind?

K. Narayana Kurup , former chairman of the State Police Complaints Authority, feels the absence of proper follow-up action is the key factor contributing to criminality in the force. “The real difference lies in our ability to initiate criminal prosecution against the officers found guilty of misconduct. The provisions specified by the law are not acted upon by the authorities concerned,” he says.

Mr. Kurup points to his order in the Parassala custodial killing case, issued in September 2016, as a case in point. “Though the Authority recommended departmental action and criminal prosecution against the delinquent officers, the executive chose to sit on the order for about two years. Finally, the case had to be transferred to the CBI following mounting public pressure,” he pointed out. His solution: a training programme that addresses the behavioural patterns of serving as well as trainee officers. “The track record of every officer who would move to the next level should be subjected to intense scrutiny so that such incidents do not recur,” he adds.

K. Venu, social activist, attributes the problem to lack of political training to the force, which still runs business as in the times of monarchy. “The attitude of the police and the bureaucracy towards the common citizen has not changed a bit. They are still stuck in the classical binary of the rulers and the ruled. Hence this application of third-degree measures and criminality.”

Jacob Punnoose , former State Police Chief, is of the opinion that though every profession would come under stress whenever a member of their tribe gets involved in a crime, for the police, having their officers being accused of bias and criminality strikes at the very core of what is important to the entire force — public trust and integrity. He attributes the rising wave of criminality in the force partly to the effort of a section of the personnel to show results quickly. “When achieving high efficiency assumes paramount importance, the personnel become a law unto themselves and forget that they are only officers of the law. As long as we do not inculcate the value of loyalty to the Constitution, these things are bound to happen,” Mr. Punnoose says.

Former State Police Chief Hormis Tharakan is firm in his conviction that the police force should be aggressive to a great extent though there is a need to balance it. “Being submissive will not take them anywhere. The force has to work under tremendous pressure, especially when handling mobs. This may be contributing to their aggressiveness.” For the police to become an effective investigation agency, different skill sets are needed and that is what we need to put in place, he says.

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