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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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Policing in India inherently suffers from a number of problems. Historically speaking, the system that now operates is based on the Police Act of 1861 which was framed by the British after the events of 1857. The system was based on the Irish Armed Constabulary and catered to the colonial needs of the British, which was to keep the Indian “subjects” in check. The system, therefore, provided for an adversarial relationship between the police and the citizens. It did not seek to provide for, or develop a sense of trust between the two which, as time went on, became more pronounced. This lack of trust led to much of the problems that the police face today all over the country. In the first place, it led to a lack of communication between the two. This in turn led to a lack of understanding of the problems of the people by the police. After independence, when the whole situation became different, the police, instead of becoming “friends” of the people, continued to be governed by the Police Act of 1861, and, therefore, perpetuated the adversarial relationship that continues to plague the police administration. While the people aspired for a system that would meet the democratic aspirations of the society, the police system essentially confined itself to the maintenance of law and order. The societal demands required the police to act with understanding of its various needs and help the people. In other words, people expected the police to act with sensitivity and understanding. Thus the police, while dealing with student problems needed to act with understanding of the problems of the students and not treat these as if they were dealing with a “law and order” problem. Then again, if they were dealing with issues concerning women, then they would require dealing with it with a different kind of sensitivity. Therefore, different situations would require different handling and different types of solutions. The police would, therefore, require completely different “approaches” while dealing with different societal needs. The recent event of the rape case in Delhi on December 16, led to a nationwide outcry against the lack of protection by the police of women in Delhi. There was also a demand to develop a fool-proof system of protecting the victim and the witness. The current system lacked sensitivity to these problems which perpetuated the schism between the police and the public. This led to a lack of trust between the two giving arise to the basic problem.

There is, therefore, a crying need for introducing a new system that would meet the aspirations of the people and, at the same time, develop a trust between the police and the public. The concept of community policing offers a suitable alternative in this regard. It consists of two complementary elements, community partnership and problem solving. To develop community partnership, police must develop positive relationship with the community, must involve the community for better crime control and prevention and must pool their resources with those of the community to address the most urgent concerns of its members. Problem solving is the process through which the specific concerns of the community are identified and through which the most appropriate remedies to address these problems could be found.

Community policing could, therefore, be defined as, “a policy and a strategy aimed at achieving more effective and efficient crime control, reduce fear of crime, improve quality of life, improve police services and police legitimacy, through a proactive reliance on community resources that seek to change crime causing conditions. This assumes a need for greater accountability of police, greater public share in decision making and greater concern for civil rights and liberties.” [Friedmann]

This definition of community policing embraces a comprehensive perspective which aims at achieving much more than just crime control. It includes non-traditional issues such as fear of crime, quality of life, improved services and police legitimacy. Under this system, the focus on crime produces conditions which actually reduce crime. In order to achieve these objectives, some fundamental changes are necessary in the structure of policing. Firstly, it needs to be more decentralized to allow better deployment in the community and better use of its personnel in response to citizens’ requirements and building the network relations with the community. Secondly, the command structure in the police needs to be so reorganized as to break the relatively rigid chain of command and have an improved flow of information. It is necessary to enhance interaction between all levels of the command structure and with the community in order to improve the response of the police personnel with the community. This method is essentially proactive. This envisages that the police and the community act together in order to prevent crime in society. To achieve the aim of proactive policing, the police must develop close relationship with the community and must involve it so as to enable it have better control over crime and take preventive steps so that crime does not occur. The police must also pool in their resources with those of the community in order to tackle the most urgent concerns of the latter. With closer relationship between the police and the community, the gap between the two would become narrow and a trust would grow between them which would bring about greater transparency, openness and improve the image of the police. This would enable the force to interact with greater confidence with the community. Such interaction would discourage criminal behaviour because of (a) better understanding between the two and (b) the trust built between the two would enable the police to gather better information/intelligence to control crime. Once the two conditions above are met, it would enable the police to detect crime and criminals more quickly and easily.

Community policing on the basis of the police community partnership can identify and analyse problems, develop suitable responses and assess the effectiveness of these responses. Once the public realizes that the police are their partners in crime prevention and in solving the local problems, they will give information to the police regarding crime and criminals and thus prevent future crimes.

Another positive result of the greater trust and effective partnership between the two is that it would lead to greater satisfaction with the services provided by the police which would enable the force to allocate their resources in the best possible manner. With the perpetual resource crunch that is faced by the force all the time, the fact that this will help it to allocate its resources in the optimal manner would be very welcome. This level of trust would lead the community to consider the police as a “friend” and not as a “foe”. Further the trust between the two would enable both to identify and analyse problems more effectively and thereby tackle the problems better.

In order to bring about a greater trust between the police and the community, it is important to include in this system the relevant NGOs local youth groups, particularly the students, senior citizens, retired government servants, ex-servicemen and selected local politicians who would be helpful in solving the local problems. It must also make effective use of the various methods of Information Technology like the blogs, twitter, face book, etc. which have a significant effect on the community. This functional group should be of the optimum size depending upon the need and the type of the local issue.

The reliance on the community itself is an important basic need of community policing. This would include partnership between the police and other agencies, legislative enactments to streamline and systematize the community policing scheme and citizens’ review boards which could look into the question of police accountability. Another important aspect is the replacement of the Police Act of 1861 by a new Police Act. It will also be essential to incorporate the system of community policing as a part of this new Police Act so that this becomes mandatory at the relevant levels. This would also prevent the ad-hocism that exists in various parts of the country wherever this concept has been introduced. This would provide a window of opportunity to both the police and the community to work together with the realization that crime is too big for any one agency to control.

Trust is an important input in this system of policing. In order to build this trust, the police must treat people with respect and sensitivity. The use of unnecessary force and arrogance, aloofness, or rudeness will deter the members of the community from cooperating with the police. The effective mobilization of community support requires different approaches in different communities, depending on the nature of the problem.

Problem solving is another important aspect of community policing. The community’s participation in identifying and setting priorities of the problems will lead to effective problem solving efforts by both the police and the community. This would reinforce trust, facilitate the exchange of information and lead to the identification of other areas that could benefit from the mutual attention of both.

It is important to note that community policing needs to be there on a long term basis and needs to be thoroughly planned. It is equally important that the people operating the system should be convinced of it and not pay mere lip service. It is also important that it should have the support of other external factors like the law so that nobody could interfere with the laid down system.

Given this method, how would it be relevant in solving crimes like rapes in cities and elsewhere? This method would be helpful by its very nature of close relationship between the police and the community. The trust built between the police and the community would help the former to get information about the bad elements in the local areas and would help it to nab such people and thereby prevent crimes.

In order to achieve a better rapport with the community, the police forces need to operate more like open systems. The structure of police departments need to be more decentralized to allow better deployment in the community, more effective use of the personnel and build network relations with the public. This will lead to proactive initiatives and decentralized decision-making. It is important that those who take decisions are held accountable for their actions. Further, there should be a fixed geographic area in which the system should operate. The internal communications between the hierarchies should be so organized as to break the relatively rigid chain of command so as to improve the flow of information. It is important that the police force should be deployed in a proactive, preventive and community-oriented manner instead of following a policy of just reactive policing. It is also equally important that both the proactive as well as the preventive reactive policing needs to exist together to tackle situations which have turned violent and serious. The most appropriate example of this type of situation would be the serious riot situations when the police would need to use force in an effective manner to tackle the situation.

In order to make this type of policing successful, it would be necessary to recruit personnel with a higher educational background as well as better IQ level so that they can take crucial decisions properly.

Training is another important input and must include interpersonal skills and community oriented actions. It would be useful if selected members of the public are also included in such training programmes before they are put together with the police for the purpose of community policing.

While considering the introduction of community policing it may be useful to fix the area of a police station as the geographical limit. It would also be useful to develop a feedback mechanism so that the senior officers can assess the work and take corrective measures wherever necessary.

In order to bring about a greater trust between the police and the community, it is important to include in the community policing system, various segments of the society like the relevant NGOs, the local youth groups, particularly the students, senior citizens, retired government servants, ex-servicemen and selected local politicians who would be helpful in solving the local problems. The community police must also make effective use of various methods of Information Technology like the blogs, twitter, Face-book, etc., which have a significant effect on the community. These functional groups should be of the optimum size depending upon the need and the type of the local issue.

Various forms of community policing have been applied for some time now all over the world. In India too it has been introduced at various places for various purposes depending on the particular needs of that community. In Delhi Special Police Officers (SPOs) have been appointed to control property offences, by educating the public in this regard, verification of the domestic servants, and their registration, setting up patrol parties and colony visits. In Maharashtra, this programme is used to obtain information from alert citizens, from joint patrol teams for crime prevention, medical health check-up, setting up of libraries, etc. In Jammu & Kashmir, village defence parties have been set up to promote positive interaction between the police and the public, organize citizens’ participation in crime prevention and detection, setting up surveillance units for suspicious persons, collection of information on drug addicts and counselling as well as organizing groups to resist militants. Various other efforts by different states have also been made. Of the different efforts, special mention may be made of the Janamaithri Scheme in Kerala and the Saanjh Project in the Punjab. In these two states, the Government has backed the schemes by budgetary allocations and such efforts have led to their success.

Kerala: In 2006 the Government of Kerala had appointed the Justice K.T. Thomas Commission to bring about police reforms. It recommended that the Government should implement community policing on an experimental basis in order to prevent crime, bring about co-operation between the police and the community in security matters and to ensure mutual co-operation of the members of the public with the security agencies. The project was approved which established the system of (a) beat officers; (b) Janamaithri Suraksha Samithi, and (c) Janamaithri Kendrams. The beat officers and the woman police constables form a team to perform the duties in a police station relating to patrolling, process servicing, servicing of complaint boxes, etc. The beat constables are specially trained and expected to know their beats thoroughly for the purpose of patrolling. They are provided with bikes and are expected to maintain a register regarding their daily activities.

The Janamaithri Suraksha Samithi is formed in each police station and comprises corporation/municipal ward counsellors, representatives of active residents’ associations, NGOs, local media representative, nominees of high schools, headmasters, college principals, reputed persons of the locality, retired police personnel, ex-service personnel, senior citizens, women and weaker sections of the society. The Samithi inter alia performs the following activities: -

(a) Formulate security plans;

(b) Identify the need of the disabled, aged and weaker sections of the population and revise plans to ensure security;

(c) Give training to the youth in first aid and trauma care;

(d) Organize victim support cells;

(e) Organize legal aid/counselling, etc., to women and students;

(f) Provide for improved traffic safety.

The Janamaithri Kendrams function as information centres and help the people to interact with the police. This interface helps the police to serve the community in a better manner.

This kind of police-community structure would be helpful especially in getting prior information about the bad elements and dealing with them in an appropriate manner. It would also be especially helpful to the women and youth who have special difficulties in dealing with the regular police. The presence of the women police personnel would also help in dealing with the problems of women better as they can relate their concerns to woman personnel much better than male personnel.


The concept of community policing – Saanjh Project – was launched in Punjab in 2010. It has a 25-member State Advisory Committee at the Police Headquarters and is headed by the DGP and includes academicians and police personnel.

The principal features of the Saanjh Kendras are as follows: -

1. These extend to 27 districts, 140 sub-divisions and 359 police stations in the State.

2. A Community Affairs Division headed by an IGP at Police Headquarters supervises the Saanjh Kendras all over the State while the Zonal IsGP and Range DIsG supervise their activities at the intermediate levels.

3. All Saanjh Kendras are registered as autonomous registered societies under the Registration of Societies Act 1860.

4. Every Saanjh Kendra is run by a Police Public Committee comprising police officers, representatives of government departments, NGOs, professionals and civil societies, etc.

5. A State-wise IT platform, with a centralized server at the police headquarters with links to every Saanjh Kendra, enables centralized data uploading and access, providing citizens with copies of FIRs, untraced reports, No Objection Certificates, etc., immediately and in a time-bound fashion. Every Saanjh Kendra provides all services of the police department to the public under the Right to Service Act, from a single window.

6. The Saanjh Kendra provides the platforms for the police-community partnership in planning and implementing community oriented projects and for resolving disputes with the help of lawyers and other experts.

7. The Kendras also serve as information centres for access to specialized services such as legal aid, victim relief centres, women shelters and NGOs working for the weaker sections.

8. All personnel, both police and public, who deal with these Kendras, have been specially trained for this purpose.

9. The police stations provide all services to the Kendras at the sub-divisional as well as the police station levels.

So far as the students are concerned, it is important that they be handled with special care. The incident of December 16 unleashed naked anger among the youth, quite a few of them students, against the current system of meting out justice to the culprits, the present laws and the ways in which these are implemented. It is imperative that unless there are very compelling reasons, the normal police methods of controlling the students, like lathi charge, firing and other coercive methods, have exactly the opposite effect on the psyche of the students and bring about a feeling of revulsion in them against the police. It would not be out of place to state that such revulsion against the law enforcement agencies lasts for a long time, even into their adulthood.

The Stanford Police Department in the University of Stanford, United States, have devised a unique method of dealing with the students, which is worth considering for being adopted in our country. In the 1960s and 1970s, the University faced several instances of violence because of the demonstrations relating to civil rights issues and the Vietnam wars. This led to a massive breakdown in the law and order. The University thereafter recognized the need for a professional Police Department in the campus that went beyond the existing Department’s functioning as security guards. The University would instead of calling in the normal police who would beat up and arrest the students because of rioting, wanted to establish a more sensitive system that involved a deeper understanding of the students. This was not something which could be done easily.

The University hired a person who was very passionate about policing values. He insisted that the Force should not be armed and that the police should look at all students as their “clients” including those they arrested. When arresting students who were drunk, they would tell the students that this was being done for their own safety transport them to the hospital and send them home when they had recovered. Thus the University had an integrated approach to policing which had adopted a different method of problem solving than the ones done by the normal police.

The examples given are only illustrative. Community policing includes methods which must be adapted to suit particular situations in different places. This should be done in addition to the police reforms as directed by the Supreme Court. This holistic approach would make it a success and would meet the needs of the society.

*The author is the recipient of the President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service.

©2005, The Association Of Retired Senior IPS Officers, All Right Reserved.
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