People-friendly policing?

When a citizen approaches police for help he should not be given excuses or treated with abuses. Prashant Pandey tells more...

Taking a serious note of several incidents of high-handedness on the part of the police while dealing with common citizens whether in the Capital or elsewhere, the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister have issued directions to the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) to devise comprehensive training programmes aimed at making the policemen people-friendly in real terms.

But those at the helm of these programmes feel that the task will not only be long drawn but also quite complex. And lying at the root of the problem is the fact that training of in-service personnel has never been a major focus area. More importantly, though, moulding the mind-set of a fresh lot may be a trifle easier than changing the attitude of the policemen already in service for several years.

Also, there are many in the force who believe that becoming people-friendly would ultimately mean losing out on "control factor". Such officers and men feel that people-friendly policing would imply soft policing in which those who take the law in their hands will have more chances of getting away with it. And then there are those who feel that since it is not an ideal situation in which they are operating, they cannot be expected to be ideal themselves.

But then expecting an ideal situation in society would amount to wishing for Utopia. Experts have always maintained that reforming the police is a much more achievable task than hoping that every other thing in society will fall in place.

There are, however, other impediments prior to finalising the new training schemes. Officers in charge of training are usually not very enthusiastic about it and those who attend various programmes from time to time generally treat it as a time for relaxation. Citing an example indicating how in-service training has largely been a neglected area, BPRD Director (Training) Rakesh Jaruhar said a policeman on an average usually comes back for training only after a gap of about 20 years. The BPRD is in the process of designing programmes which, in due course, will cut down the huge gap to just about a couple of years. "When a policeman fresh from training is posted in the field, he comes across several experiences that tend to wash away the lessons learnt in the academy. It is, therefore, necessary to keep repeating those lessons and regular training is one way to do it," said Mr. Jaruhar.

Another aspect to be kept in mind while designing such training programmes would be their content and style of training. Programmes will have to be designed by taking into account the current needs of the policemen. Also, the manner in which the information is imparted will be the key to how seriously these programmes are taken by the in-service personnel. "Mere physical drill or classroom lectures may not be enough." At the end of the day, the task of changing the statute book or the attitude has been taken up in right earnest only in the past couple of years. It will be some time before even the basic parameters are fixed and the programmes implemented.

But what should be the bottom line about the kind of policeman citizens want to see on the road? "A person may not need police assistance for years on end. But one day, things may go wrong with him and he would require their help. At that moment, he should not be given excuses or treated with abuses. It is for these moments that the policeman would have to be ready. Always," summed up the officer.

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