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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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Proper policing is an essential component of public welfare, and police being the most visible arm of the state, its performance hence remains a matter of constant media gaze and frequent public discussion. Technological advances leading to near-universal media reach, combined with intense media competition resulting from its explosive growth in the recent period, have made police performance and behaviour a ready subject for popular coverage in the present time of growing complexities. Terror as a tool of political and criminal exploitation, ease of movement across state and national boundaries and availability of real-time multi-mode communication are only some of these complexities that have led to a paradigm shift in police responsibilities, which the society must learn to appreciate in order to help maintain, and even further improve, the police élan. A complete look on the historical evolution of the police, starting from the original concept of policing to the arduous nature of its present tasks, can alone provide a true understanding of this shift.

2. Evolution of police responsibilities is a dynamic phenomenon as police force, being a creature of the society, has to change with time in every age. In its simplest form in the beginning of time, the society consisted merely of man and his woman and their immediate off-springs, and at that stage, every man was his own policeman with the simple task of protecting his interests - his own property which included his wife and children- and he carried the responsibility of himself laying down and enforcing the rules by which he regulated the behaviour of his charges and set the norms by which he would act or react in any given situation. These rules were designed both for mutual survival as well as for mutual happiness. The mutuality arose from man’s built-in compassion and his need for striking a balance in his inter-relationship even with his wife and children so that their happiness to be with him would make them happy enough to make him happy in return. The concept of interdependence in human inter-relationship was thus engendered and, over a period of time, extended to groups outside his immediate family whose interests for peace and happiness and for freedom to pursue their interests coincided with his own.

3. It is also in the nature of man to produce both Cains and Abels (to take the earliest human example, from the Bible, of a murderer and his victim), and obviously one out of these two types had to be protected from the other. As man’s inter-relationship widened, his society grew and became more complex, and the only way open to those who wanted to pursue their livelihood in peace and happiness was to organize themselves to set down the rules by which most things involved in this inter-relationship could be ordered. It was then that the need was felt to have a separate category of people who could be persuaded to take time off from their own natural pursuits to help enforce these rules so that the rest of the people could devote most of their time to their legitimate business.

4. For obvious reasons, this separate category of people – police in embryo – was drawn from among the strong but with enough commonsense, so that they could overcome physical threats and have enough intelligence not only to enforce rules but also to enforce them judiciously. But who would be so vicarious as to undertake this public duty unless they were amply compensated for their pains? Thus was derived the first form of professional policing.

5. And soon enough, following guidelines for policing became clear:
-- The policemen had to be physically fit and also mentally alert.
-- They were expected to discharge their public trust judiciously and in the community’s interest in accordance with rules set down by the community.
-- And the community undertook to make it monetarily worthwhile for its policemen to leave aside their own natural legitimate pursuits in favor of public work.

6. But soon it also became clear that the society was not willing to sacrifice too much, to its own proprietorial and monetary detriment, for the upkeep of such a law enforcement body. It, therefore, sought to keep its expenses on police down to what it could afford on the premise that total security was the responsibility of the total population and should situations arise that would require participation by the people on the side of law enforcement, then they would be there to lend the numerical strength, though only for limited periods of time or in rotation, to tide over only the crises. In view of the fact that these ordinary citizens had not themselves spent sufficient time on learning martial arts and on the intricacies of law enforcement, the limited number of available police professionals were to be used mainly for the leadership role in these situations.

7. However, as society developed in size and complexities, inter-personal relationship became more remote, and man in the pursuit of his own interests often forgot his civic duties and tended to rely for special services on this special body (of whole-time professionals) which he had helped to create. In the process he also started taking things for granted – things like the peace and order which he enjoyed and which were so crucial for his own ability to not only survive but also to prosper. He started relying wholly on the professionals but, at times, he even forgot that the professionals had to be adequately compensated and supported in order to motivate them to divorce themselves from their natural pursuits and concentrate as fully as possible on the requirements of the community.

8. This being the genesis of Police, let us examine to what extent all this fits into the current context.

9 Police is the public’s creature in that its existence is an expression of the need to meet the security requirements of the people but it is the government, and not the people, which is police’s direct and immediate employer. Though our government is elected by, or constituted in the name of, a majority of the people, it is a government for the entire lot of the people and in the context of law enforcement, the injunction that policeman must apply the law in an even-handed manner, regardless of race, political creed, caste, community or status, has to be the foremost indication that the police is for all the people and its role should have no relevance whatsoever to segmental interests.

10. Police enforces the laws, promulgated by the people’s elected representatives, upon the people as also on the various sectors of the government, but the reality of government being its immediate employer often puts police in situations of quandary from which only an alert and forceful public can help it retain its objectivity, and thereby its own élan.

11. For helping the police to get out of this quandary, the society must accept that the laws, which the police enforces, have the popular will and should therefore be enforced even-handedly until they are stricken off the statute book by the people’s representatives. Therefore, policemen should have no qualms about enforcing the law, even of a specific piece of legislation that may appear from time to time to be against certain sectional interests, because policemen are not of, nor for, any section of society but of and for the whole society.

12. But these days, policemen find themselves badly shorthanded, and not as well-placed as is necessary, for the efficient discharge of their duties to the public. When policemen are placed in this kind of predicament, the leaders of the society - police brass and administrative heads not excluded - must make effective representations to the powers that be to see that remedial and timely action is taken to help resolve the police dilemma; otherwise, the security of the society gets imperiled in the long run as seems to be happening now.

13. From this it should be clear that there is an inter-dependence and inter-relationship of equal reciprocity between the people and the police. The public support for the police strengthens it in terms both physical as well as moral, and the net result is better security and a more efficient security service for the public.

14. The police does not exist by itself or for itself. Its raison d’etre is public service and its failure to achieve its objectives results in an immediate, though sometimes not immediately discernable, loss to the public. For this reason, society must always take an interest in the kind of shape the police is in and, should it be found wanting, society must do what is needful to bring it into shape. The question that society must always ask itself in relation to the police is: what must we do in order to increase the efficiency and proficiency of our police force? The answer or the suggestion must always be positive and achievable. Mere criticism is an exercise in futility and negativism.

15. The society, as indicated earlier, cannot have a professional police force that it cannot afford, yet maximum security has always been society’s desired requirement. As a corollary, society must remain prepared to accept its own responsibility towards the maintenance of peace and observance of law and order, so as to avoid creating a professional force whose large size and lavishness in equipment may answer its total needs but whose upkeep society may find difficult to afford. And in the present phase of evolution of our country’s socio-political system, where old norms in almost all walks of life are being re-designed to give ascendancy to “ends” over “means”, the self-policing role has to be resumed by the society to quite some extent in the manner that pre-historic men did as delineated hereinbefore. Or else, the country’s legal code, laid down in Macaulay’s time according to Victorian values and mores, should be replaced by one in consonance with present norms; otherwise, law-breakers will outnumber law-enforcers – a sort of process which already seems to have got going.

16. Society cannot give to the Police an impossible task, viz that of ensuring total policing in an expanding and growingly complex situation without giving adequate resources to the Police. What the police may consider to be adequate may not be within the capability of the society to provide without making serious, and perhaps unacceptable, dents in other essential programmes in the socio-economic field. Therefore, a happy balance is needed whereby society should organize itself to solve many of the problems which make too large a police force necessary and, in addition to that, take other direct steps, in the meantime, to offset the inadequacy of police resources. (British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s latest move to stamp out growing loutish behaviour among his country’s youth by shifting ‘problem families’ from their homes to secure local authority “sin-bin” is the type of initiative that societies can take to reduce unwarranted police load. In Delhi, for example, mass violation of correct traffic norms or disturbingly high growth of rape cases has reached proportions that require active societal intervention rather than exclusive handling by hard-pressed and short-staffed police force.) This should enable the police to concentrate effectively, and accountably, over those areas of policing which truly require professionalism.

17. Now how does the Police fit into all this? As a none-too-huge but compact, specially- equipped, trained and organized body, the Police role should be to undertake frontline hard-core tasks, crucial for the protection and progress of the society and not petty incidental jobs that the society can and should handle by itself. Whilst the people organize themselves for the tasks within their capability, the police must ensure that the bigger threats against the society, such as terror attacks or ransom killings, are kept at bay and prevented from destroying society in its various stages of development. Police should have the organization and the ability for this, for which purpose it should exert as much in improving its professional competence as it should assert in getting the requisite men and means. Also, the police can best protect society from more serious manifestations of anti-social behaviour if it remains in close touch with, and receives the support from, the people. But for that it shall have to earn the respect of the people as much by its behaviour as by its performance.

18. The police thus cannot keep aloof from the society and has to remain involved with it. The question is how and to what extent? And therein lies a dilemma. This dilemma was well narrated by Michael Banton in his book “The Policemen in the Community”, when he stated that:
“If the Policeman is too much involved in community affairs and loyalties, he lacks the impartiality required of any authority figure. If, on the other hand, he is detached too much from the community, he no longer has the understanding of people’s feelings, which he needs if he is to exercise his discretion effectively. If the Policeman is too involved, he forfeits respect. If he is too detached, people resent his implied claim to be their moral superior. Indeed, it could be argued that this duality in the policeman’s role is the logical starting point for an analysis of Police-Public relations”.

19. But the Police will not get public co-operation by mere asking. This will come when the public have trust and confidence in the Police, and this trust and confidence will only come about:
-- If the public believes that it is dealing with men of integrity and courage who can be relied upon;
-- If the public believes that the policeman will act in the public interest;
-- If they believe that the confidentiality of informer or matter will be safeguarded;
-- If the police will act swiftly and be seen to act swiftly or if the police cannot act swiftly, it is plausibly explained to the public as to why the police could not act fast;
-- If the police treats them with respect in its contacts with them, adopts an attitude of patience and understanding and never of rudeness, abruptness and ridicule.

20. Much of police-public problems today can be traced to police failure in the eyes of the public to live up to its expectations. But those of the policemen, who work very hard, courageously and faithfully in public interest, resent the lack of public appreciation. However, it has also to be borne in mind that the public is not entirely at fault, for the police have their own fair share of black sheep in the family whose lack of integrity and public-spiritedness, whose indolence and indifference, rudeness, etc, have been amply witnessed by the public. Because of these handful of blackguards, the whole organization is oftentimes put to shame. But, often police’s poor image is not of its own making. It is the result of circumstances beyond the control of the department such as lack of manpower and resources ( which lead to slow response to public needs }, over-exhausted men, ill-trained men, etc, but whatever the cause may be, each self-respecting member of the Force must undertake to do the best he can to correct this image.

21. On its own part, the police department should always try to get adequate manpower and equipmental resources to enable it to discharge its functions efficiently, with men and machines getting the necessary rest from time to time. It should endeavour to increase the training facilities and the training reserves as well as improve the quality of training. On the part of the department, the need also is to weed out those whose hearts do not lie in public service so that when society sees a policeman, it sees only a man whose primary concern is efficient service to the public.

22. For policemen, it is always important to know what the public thinks of them and why? Sometimes, the public image of police is unfavourable only because of a lack of information and if this should be the case, then it is its duty, and in its own interest, to explain the facts.

23. The police is an organization created by the people to come to their assistance in the realm of public security and protection. With the limitations placed upon it by the public themselves, the police cannot do more and this the public has to realize and appreciate. On their part, policemen must constantly appreciate that they are engaged by the public for their protection and not merely to enable the former to find a livelihood. Public confidence in police begins building up as it slowly chalks up more and more successes. Policemen must, therefore, gird themselves for greater efforts in the years to come because success brings not only public respect but also self-respect.

24. As for issues and tasks beyond the powers and discretion of police but still relating to police, as delineated above, it is upto the knowledgeable leaders of the society to project them, and project they must effectively and timely if the situation is not to get beyond redemption. There is not much time left to lose and there are any number of highly commendable and well-conceived recommendations of deep and objective thinkers (like the National Police Commission chaired by Shri Dharma Vira, ICS), crying for implementation for long in the arena of police performance. It is for the leaders of the society and masters of the media to intervene for the right causes of the police as strongly as it is for the policemen to rise to the growing challenges of their profession.

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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