Last week, the Union Home Ministers told a gathering of Police officers at the National Police Academy that they should work to end the crisis of credibility in the police. While police officers mull the question how to end the crisis of credibility, here is a suggestion: attend to public complaints. Given the prevalence of malpractices like extortion of bribes, third-degree and cavalier treatment of weaker sections, which the supervisory officers are supposed to check, indifference to public complaints can only further erode their credibility.
There are many reasons for indifference of supervisors but before we discuss them, it would be worthwhile to dwell on the consequences of such indifference. When a subordinate indulges in some malpractice and a complaint is made,but the officer is unable to get to the truth of the matter, the following consequences follow:
(1) The wrong-doer is emboldened;
(2) The other subordinates, who are generally well aware of the happenings, learn that the officer is ineffective and lose respect for him;
(3) The right-doers among subordinates are demoralized;
(4) The complainant comes to believe that the officer was mixed-up in the wrong-doing; and
(5) The public perception that officers are also complicit in wrong-doings is reinforced, with the result that people would much rather start an agitation than approach senior officers when they are exercised about something done (or not done) by police and securing public cooperation becomes more problematic.
Thus, it becomes a lose-lose-lose situation for the officer himself.
Reverting to the reasons for indifference of officers, the first is that the volume of complaints is very large and a very large proportion of them are false and motivated. Moreover, every complaint against a subordinate implies that the supervisory officer failed to supervise him effectively. So the officer, who has to make enquiries in addition to his normal duties, feels ill-used and likes to dispose off the complaints after cursory enquiries. But, while some persons would persist with complaints and go to extraordinary lengths to ‘fix’ an inconvenient police officer, the rogue police officers are also very clever at covering their tracks and this makes
cursory enquiries worse than useless.
The solution to this conundrum is that a supervisor must regard enquiry as a tool to exercise better control over subordinates. He should select a few complaints on professional basis and pursue the enquiries until he can prove which complaint is true and which is false and take action accordingly.
One has to bear in mind that the prevalent public mood is such that even the most detailed enquiry might fail to convince the public if it ultimately exonerates the accused. Therefore, a supervisor would be well advised to co-opt a person of repute in enquiries so that public is satisfied that the enquiry was fair and thorough. If the State Human Rights Commission
, the State women’s Commission and the the State SC&ST commissions agree, their nominees could be co-opted.
By PD Malaviya
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