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Breakdown of Police – Public Relations and How Community Policing May Be a Solution
What has happened:
The police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis, USA, has prompted one of the greatest civil uprisings of the modern day. The central narrative of the incident is racial discrimination and cruel attitude of police towards general public.
In the past few months, Indian police too have remained in news for its wrongfully handling of anti-CAA protests, riots in Delhi and the marching migrants across India during COVID-19 times.
There is a growing distrust between the public and police. However, in the times of COVID-19 pandemic, police has a role of not just law enforcing agency but also as a service provider and enabler. It is therefore necessary to improve public-police relation.
Growing distrust between police and public:
According to a study conducted by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in 2019, the poor, marginalized, minorities and women tend to fear and feel alienated from the police. More than half of the respondents in the study felt that police treats rich better than the poor. This shows that the poor and marginalized have a feeling of discrimination. It was also found that there is a decrease in representation of SC/ST, OBCs and minorities in police force.
The general public has fear of police on the perception of police being discriminatory and oppressive in behavior. Often, abuse of power by police further erodes the public’s trust in police.
Since Independence, various committees and commissions have recommended the urgency of police reforms in India. Some of these are:
- Second Administrative Reforms Commission Report (2006): The report found that police-public relations are in an unsatisfactory statebecause people view the police as corrupt, inefficient, politically partisan and unresponsive.
- Second report of the National Police Commission (1980):The report recommended that the police should duly recognize, and be trained and equipped to perform the service-oriented role in providing relief to people in distress situations.
- SC’s judgement in ‘Prakash Singh & Ors vs Union of India’ (2006): SCordered the centre and states to set up authorities to lay down guidelines for police functioning, evaluate police performance, decide postings and transfers, and receive complaints of police misconduct. The court also required that minimum tenure of service be guaranteed to key police officers to protect them from arbitrary transfers and postings.
Community policing as a solution:
Practically, Police cannot operate effectively without wiling co-operation and support of the very public, whom it is entrusted to serve, defend and protect. Police often require citizen involvement, public participation and community relations for effective discharge of their duties. Thus, improving relations between public and police is pivotal for effective policing.
One of the ways of addressing the challenge of public-police distrust is through the community policing model. It is policing in active consultation, cooperation and partnership with community at large. Community policing requires the police to work with the community for prevention and detection of crime, maintenance of public order, and resolving local conflicts, with the objective of providing a better quality of life and sense of security. It may include patrolling by the police for non-emergency interactions with the public, actively soliciting requests for service not involving criminal matters, community based crime prevention and creating mechanisms for grassroots feedback from the community.
Some of the examples of community policing in India are:
- Janamaithri Suraksha in Keralawas introduced in 2008 to facilitate greater accessibility and closer interaction between police and local community. In Covid times, through this project, the policemen were able to reach out to large parts of community for monitoring, contact tracing, reaching out to senior citizens and creating health and hygiene awareness.
- Meira Paibi (Torch-bearers) in Assam: The women of the Manipuri Basti in Guwahati help with improving the law and order problem in their area, by tackling drug abuse among the youth. They light their torches and go around the basti guarding the entry and exit points, to prevent the youth of the area from going out after sunset.
- In Delhi, the Special Police Officers (SPOs)have acted as a bridge between the police and community since the 1980s.
Various other community policing models such as Rajasthan through ‘Joint Patrolling Committees’, Tamil Nadu through ‘Friends of Police’, West Bengal through the ‘Community Policing Project’, Andhra Pradesh through ‘Maithri and Maharashtra through ‘Mohalla Committees’.
Community Policing becomes more important during the current COVID-19 pandemic, where active involvement of community can help the police in better discharge of their duties.
Caution about expanding community policing efforts:
Community Policing should not lead to vigilantism and mob justice. For example, the experiment of ‘Salwa Judum’, which involved arming of local tribal youth to fight Naxals in Chhattisgarh should be kept in mind. In ‘Nalini Sundar & Ors vs State of Chhattisgarh’ (2011), the Supreme Court rightly ordered ceasing of the programme and held it to be violative of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
Police-public relations are an important concern in effective policing. At present when the police at the frontline fight with COVID-19 pandemic, they need support and cooperation of public. From law and order and crime centric approach, there is need to shift towards service oriented, public themed approach that facilitates community policing and greater trust.
Mains Practice Question:
What is Community-Policing? How does the Community-Policing helps in bridging the gap between Public-Police relations? 250 words (15 marks)