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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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Sankar Sen, IPS
Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences
Former Director General - National Human Rights Commission
Former Director - National Police Academy

Community policing in various forms is now being practiced in different countries of the world. However considerable confusion prevails regarding its meaning and contents. There are many police officers who hold the mistaken view that any kind of contact between the police and the public means community policing. In reality, community policing refers to arrangements for policing that accord a significant role to the community in defining and guiding the policing in their locality. It proposes a paradigm shift in police psychology and strategy. The shift involves a new recognition by the police that the community is its best resource and greatest ally in the fight against crime and disorder. It also acknowledges that the community partnership is important for dealing not only with crime, but fear of crime which is of equal concern to the community as crime itself.

In the 1970s and early 1980s police services in England, Japan, Germany, Canada and Singapore were experimenting with alternatives to professional bureaucratic model of policing that was widening the gulf between the civilians and the police officials. Central elements of the professional bureaucratic model were the use of up to date technology in policing and insulation of the police from political influence. It was however, seen that professional policing model was not preventing crime and technological advances were reducing police contact with the public as police spent more time in high tech equipped cars.

In USA community policing reached the height of popularity when President Bill Clinton made it the centre-point of his anti-crime agenda. Today, most of the police chiefs in USA approve of the principles of the community policing and try to apply them with varying skills and degrees. Further, community policing in USA involved a partnership not only between the police and the citizens but also between police and social science workers, university scholars as well as independent research institutions. They were all involved in the early development of community policing programs and their evaluations and further refinements.

It has been found that community-policing program when successfully implemented, breaks down the anonymity of the police and diminishes the psychological distance between the police and the public. It is, to quote the words of David Bayley “puts faces in uniform and allows the community to know the police in human terms”. It is a fact that what irks the community is partisan law enforcement and over reaction of the police. Community policing tends to minimize police overreaction and transforms police officers from being “agents of law to the upholder of the community values”. Again community policing does not mean cessation of police efforts to control crime and punish the offenders. Core functions of the police remain unchanged. Investigative policing has to go side by side with community policing.

Experiments in India
Unfortunately, in India there is no inbuilt mechanism for community policing within our police system and structure. Some police chiefs however have experimented with community policing program in different states with varying degrees of success. However, these initiatives have been somewhat sporadic and impermanent. Recently the Punjab police have embarked on an ambitious community-policing project to bridge the gulf between the police and the community. Community Police Reserve Centers (CPRC) have been set up to in different districts facilitate grievance redressal of common people and also serve as a nodal points for community-oriented schemes like combating domestic violence and de-addiction programs etc. However, devil is in the implementation. The most essential requirements for successful implementation of community policing programmes are smooth flow of communication within the police department and between the police and the public. Communication must be timely, comprehensive and direct. The police leader must explain the concept of community policing to the entire police organization, the local police leadership and the community at large. Community policing strategy must also be dynamic and flexible. Evaluation feedbacks from both inside and outside the police organization are essential for making the community policing work. Though for successful implementation of community policing close and consistent supervision is essential considerable discretion however, should be left in the hands of the patrolling officers and the time-honored attitude that the police officers have to be constantly guided and directed has to be discarded.

Supervisors must act as facilitators and not as auditors. There is often a lack of vision on the part of police executives who feel that their authority will be weakened by allowing field officers great deal of discretion. Training is another important key to effective implementation of community policing. Training in community policing will supplement officers’ communication and leadership skills that will encourage participation from the community. There should be training on topics that policemen do not learn from Police academies such as housing problems, roles and responsibilities of other departmental agencies etc. The community-policing model requires extensive cooperation of the police with other agencies and this has often proved to be a difficult endeavor.

During community policing programmes and initiatives many police departments in the USA have sought the assistance of academic centers and think tanks to assist in the design and analysis of community policing programs. However, a certain amount of opposition to the community policing have to be anticipated both inside and outside the agency. There will always be groups within the community suspicious of the concept of community policing but the most serious impediment to the community policing program is often police resistance. This spawns from police resistance to innovative changes and fear of threats to police autonomy. Police unions internationally view community policing as a threat to police professionalism. They feel that the police were the appropriate trained agency to control crime and in this work the citizens are neither needed nor wanted. Further, community policing requires some kind of police accountability to the community and this is not acceptable to many police leaders.

It is also a fact that many citizens fear that the community policing interferes with the standard of crime fighting and demands return to traditional policing. Traditional crime fighting organizational value provides a strong barrier to the community policing officers in the implementation of community policing programmes. Officers at every level have to win the trust of the community and this is a vital step towards the implementation of community policing. There is also the possibility that community policing may lessen the protection to unpopular groups and individuals such as the vagrants and the homeless. In respect of community policing programs in India it is noticed that there is a lack of continuity. Sometimes good effects of community policing experiments and initiatives have withered away with the transfer of the experimenter. The unhealthy predecessor-successor-syndrome has neutralized the positive impact of good work done by an energetic officer.

The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

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