A government’s efficiency of running the nation can be measured by the level of security it provides to its citizens through the instrument of law and order. And to execute law and order for ordinary citizens, the role of police was envisaged. Policing as a concept was organised to protect its citizens from crime and prevent civil chaos. But over a period of time, we saw the role of police changing in the socio-political environment. Now they are expected to perform a multi-dimensional role in society. Police activity in the current times has expanded its role to surveillance, monitoring of elections etc.
If the above-defined role of the police seems so noble and significant to the functioning of our society, then why has the image of police become tainted? Why has its credibility fallen in shambles? These questions need a deeper analysis on all fronts than just a quick no-brainer answer.
First of all, the functioning of our police system is the last and most crucial bastion where the colonial era dominance still persists. The working of the police is shrouded with the veil of secrecy, the administration running on the wheels of non-transparency is the main cause of anger and distrust with this wing of government. Like old colonial times, police is seen as the force looking at every citizen with suspicious eyes. They can be seen treating ordinary people as passive subjects to rule over. This asymmetry of power even in the hands of the lowest police officials is what further alienates people from this very instrument of justice.
Then, the attitude of police personnel is marked by haughty and non-democratic qualities. Making insensitive statements and finding every possible way to exploit the complainants are some common stories of police stations. It has become almost impossible to file an FIR without getting into any hassle. This is the reason people are not helping accident victims on the road and reporting the crime. And even after one goes all the way through towards this horrible journey of reporting, he has to go through the nightmarish experience of harassment by police officers. And even after this, there is no guarantee that he will be helped or his case would get solved.
These all inner demons of the police system have made people lose their trust in the police force. This is why people are afraid to sight the advent of police near localities. The entity which was formed to protect the people has itself become the cause of worry for the commoners. And there is no accountability for the police injustice as evident from the acquittal of extra-judicial killing convicts. The staggering 65% of under trial population in prisons is a cause of concern too.
But not all fault can be loaded onto the shoulders of the policemen. The absence of modern arms and lack of infrastructure has created a ruckus in maintaining the security of the nation. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2013 data shows that India’s ratio of 138 police personnel per lakh of the population was the fifth lowest among the 71 countries. The scenario is further distressing when we count in the factor of politicization of crime. This very evil has shattered the confidence of police itself in the machinery as now honest police officers are made to work under rule breakers. The guilty ones are rewarded but honest ones are not appreciated. The system is failing its own people.
There’s a fracture in the structural system too. There is no functional classification which demotivates the lower rung of the police to work to their efficiency. Also, the bias in service conditions towards IPS officers deters constables who form 86% of the police force. Further, they are made to work for 14 hours a day. The absence of festivals and family gatherings further affects their psychological well-being. They feel distant from society. Their job is getting tougher day by day which demands not only their mental alertness but also physical preparedness.
So, we saw how the police system is crumbling under its own functioning. In order to address the issue, we can see how various governments have tried to bring in reforms through the setting of various committees such as Malimath, Soli Sorabji etc.
But the tardy implementation of these suggestions has been slowing down the reforms. Therefore, the need of the hour is to reorganise the role of the police, hold them accountable, make their actions transparent and rebuild their stock of weapons and arms with modern technology. The setting up of national and state security commissions, police complaints authority on the lines of Prakash Singh’s judgement, in which the Supreme Court gave specific directions to the central and state governments to carry out structural changes in the police with a view of insulating it from extraneous pressures and making it accountable to the people, can be reformative to a large extent.
The work hours of police officers need to be regulated too and the vacancy can be filled to recruit fresh blood. Crime investigation and security measures can be specialized to independent agencies under the police. Community policing can also go a long way to improve the situation. Also, the police needs to redefine itself as a service than a force to make a more strong human connect for its people, otherwise it would not only lose its significance but also witness the loss of its relevance. Police reforms are therefore the much-needed medicine for our nation to secure its integrity.