About the Author:
Hermanprit Singh is a Senior India Police Service cadre officer and an acclaimed International Peacekeeper. Mr. Singh has maintained peace in war and strife-torn areas as a United Nations Acting Police Commissioner and handled extremely tricky situations with professionalism, poise, and dignity.
Team Mapsofworld requested Mr. Singh to write this article for us. He wrote this article in his personal capacity.
The primary mission of the Police is to prevent crime and preserve order. Discharge of these two functions requires the imposition of reasonable restraint upon citizens in carrying on with their affairs. Policing is, therefore, society’s willingness to impose upon itself a kind of self-restraint for its continued well-being. To be able to discharge this duty in a democratic polity, police officers are appointed through a procedure vetted by the elected representatives. Accordingly, in the course of its duties, the Police personnel are expected to identify and bring to law deviant citizens for their acts that are detrimental to society’s wellbeing. Most police systems the world over succeed in doing so to a reasonable level as failure to do so will classify the society or a nation as a “failed state.” However, the totalitarian and democratic societies achieve the end state of “prevention and detection of crime and maintenance of order” through different means. For example, Police in both South Korea and North Korea succeed in giving their citizens a safe environment, but how they achieve, it is the difference between good and bad policing.
Tenets of good policing can be defined as the following 4 Ps:
- Prompt & proactive
Hallmark of any vocation is the commitment of its adherents to being driven by professional rather than personal concerns. For a policeman, professionalism is integrity, impartiality, and transparency in his conduct. Legitimacy for Police does not come from laws and statutes that empower it to maintain order or prevent crime. The only way Police can earn legitimacy is by gaining the confidence of the people it serves. And the trust of people is earned by doing the right thing and through justifiable means. On many occasions at home and abroad, we have seen police officers charged with being racist or casteist. Often a single action of Police that does not stand the test of “impartiality” leads to public outcry and violence, as we are witnessing currently in the United States and have witnessed on many occasions in India. During everyday life, police professionalism takes a serious beating when people see policemen demanding bribes from errant drivers rather than prosecuting them.
Similarly, when a victim of a crime goes to the police station and rather than being heard promptly and reassuringly, the Police delay their response by first trying to judge the “character” of the victim or his or her political affiliation, police credibility suffers a setback.
Prompt & Proactive
No police force can justify its existence if it cannot respond to distress calls quickly. Responding promptly to an emergency call is a critical aspect of being a professional in any vocation. However, in policing to be prompt, it assumes even more importance as to be prompt and proactive, which can mean saving lives and destruction. Police arriving promptly upon a call from a bank can save a bank heist or a woman in distress and save her from rape. For this reason, large cities have a Police Control Room based response mechanism which can trace the call to its origin and promptly guide a pre-positioned PCR van to respond. “100 Dial” helpline is now the buzz word for an immediate response, as most police forces try to ensure that the victim’s precious time is not wasted trying to locate an elusive phone number. Aside from being prompt, good policing implies being proactive as well. A sustained price rise of essential commodities or their sudden disappearance from markets can lead to public unrest, often politically orchestrated by the opposition. Good policing entails being able to “see” what is “coming” and make a pro-active framework so that public property is not destroyed by protesters and unsuspecting persons not suffer detention or injury.
It is often said that “with power comes responsibility.” Since Police have the power of enforcement that ordinary citizens do not have, it falls upon the police leadership to ensure that the police power is not abused at any level. However, often, Police have to use coercive force to prevent more significant harm to innocent bystanders or public or private property or even to the person who is breaking the law himself. In such a situation, good policing entails using force proportionate to the provocation. The Police are equipped with a variety of non-lethal means to be used against the trouble mongers to avert chaos to ensure the use of force proportionate to provocation. When facing an unlawful assembly of protesters displaying violent behavior, a good police force uses proportionate force and relies on the gradation of the use of force. This means that rather than attacking the unruly crowds by raining them with baton charge, the Police should try to dissuade the crowd by warning them on loud hailers. Only if the crowd refuses to disperse, use tear gas or water cannons to disperse it. The use of lethal force by Police can only be the last option and that too only when facing an equally armed insurgency or an act of terror.
Participative policing means Police are always in touch with the citizens and various stakeholders of the society. The participative nature of policing has lately come to be known as Community Policing. Participative form of policing first evolved as a Koban system of policing in Japan in the late 19th Century. A Koban is a small neighborhood police post that keeps a general watch, responds to emergencies, gives directions, and otherwise interacts with citizens on a more intimate basis than would be the case if they were operating from a more distant police station. Community-oriented policing also signals a “bottom-up” approach based on what the citizens need rather than the traditional “top-down” method of delivering services. An eminent participative policing example is Delhi (India) Police’s “Sashakti” scheme aimed at providing self-defense training to young working and college-going women. This scheme was a response to women’s safety issues following the infamous Nirbhaya case. Under this scheme, nearly five lakh girls/women were imparted self-defense training in over 2000 programs in the years 2017 and 2018.
Similarly, Kolkata Police’s initiative, “Pronam” was launched as a response to crimes against unsuspecting elderly persons living alone. The Pronam initiative involves dedicated police teams, along with volunteers provided by ‘The Dignity Foundation’ visiting senior citizens’ homes, conducting security audits, and inquiries about other problems faced by senior citizens regarding their health and wellbeing. The program has a dedicated hotline for senior citizens to call in case of any emergency.
Policing is a mission, and every person in uniform is an equal stakeholder with society for its success.