Synopsis: Police reforms are much needed in India. In this respect, India can learn a lot from the George Floyd trial.
- Killing of George Floyd was in news a few months back. In USA it sparked mass protests culminating in the conviction of the police officer involved in the case.
Why an erosion of public trust in the police is not unusual?
As per The Status of Policing in India Report for 2018, police personnel have inherent biases.
- Bias against minorities: Police personnel have an inherent bias against minorities and marginalized sections of the society in the sense that it is believed that these sections are prone to violence. More so than other sections of the society.
- Bias towards violent justice: A section of police personnel felt that it was better to put dangerous criminals to death than on trial.
Thus, an erosion of trust in the police is, thus, highly probable in the country.
What can India learn from the George Floyd trial?
- Demanding accountability: The first must be in demanding accountability. Police brutality in India isn’t rare. An analysis of NCRB data reveals that about 7 in 10 custodial deaths in the past decade were attributed to illness or suicide, which underscores the possibility of custodial torture
- Eradicating systemic biases: Second, we need to acknowledge and eradicate systemic bias within the police force. In India, acknowledgements of racial bias have never been forthcoming. NCRB data on incarcerated populations in India shows that minorities are disproportionately jailed, indicating the existence of bias against these communities within the criminal justice system
- Realistic cinematic portrayal of cops: The role played by popular cinema in glamourizing the no-nonsense, tough-on-crime cop has certainly played a role in normalizing police violence. it encourages lynch-mob vigilantism as justice.
- Improving judicial sensitivity: Judicial response to custodial violence has also been erratic, and despite the Supreme Court’s guidelines in DK Basu’s case, the rate of conviction in custodial violence or death claims continues to be low.
- Parliamentary discussions and debates: Law-making organ of the state needs to have consistent and meaningful discussion on the issue of police atrocities within civil society.
- Public outrage: Equally important is the public outrage over police brutality or deaths which has been largely missing from India. It is in sharp contrast with the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. Citizen’s participation can galvanise different societal elements coming together to correct injustices.
- Police Complaint authorities: Supreme Court, in the Prakash Singh & Ors versus Union of India & Ors case, had directed each State and Union Territory to constitute Police Complaints Authorities (PCAs) at the State and district levels with immediate effect. This needs to be followed in letter and spirit. Many states have yet to establish these bodies while those that have been established are without any penal powers.