With the PM spending 3 days with DsGP, the issue of police reforms again comes to the fore.
At the outset, it must be clear that people are not interested in police reforms per se: people only want police to protect their life, property and dignity. In other words, people want police to prevent crimes and are not overly concerned about how they do it so long as their methods are not unconscionable . It is therefore necessary to examine why police fail to prevent crimes.
One reason is political interference in police work: politicians wouldn’t allow police even to question their protectees who might be suspected of crimes (CBI vs Kejriwal is the latest example of this). The Supreme Court had issued directions in 2006, that govt control over police be transferred, virtually, to a Safety Commission. As expected, this direction has been followed more in the breach. A question then arises whether the same result can be achieved by some other alternative means and here it is suggested that instead of relaxing govt control over the police, the working of the police should be made so transparent that any wrong-doing by the police, whether due to political interference or due to corruption etc, is immediately flagged and the weight of informed public opinion – which is one thing that all politicians now fear – can be brought to bear against wrongful actions (or omissions) of police.
There is a strong belief that crimes can be prevented by putting more boots on the ground. This belief is,however, not so well found because police patrols have only a limited impact on crimes. Moreover, intense patrolling and checking by police can easily become oppressive. Supplementing patrolling with installation of CCTV cameras is certainly helpful but it also has limitations. Therefore, detection and punishment of offenders remains the most important tool of crime-prevention.
That detection is unsatisfactory is an accepted fact.The question is whether check on political interference and corruption would bring it up to satisfactory levels. One is aware of many, many cases where there was no political interference, but even honest and competent investigators failed to work them out. In fact, the key to successful detection is public cooperation.
If public cooperates and witnesses come forward with truth, the chances of detection are generally bright, but when the true witnesses do not come forward and police are forced to rely on their informers, a lot of innocent persons are unnecessarily questioned by the police and if police are under pressure, the chances of their fabricating evidence and implicating wrong persons run high. Therefore, the number one reform that is needed is a thorough review of laws, procedures, practices to discover why people are so reluctant to get involved with criminal justice and what can be done to encourage them to do their civic duty without inhibitions.
Another impediment to detection lies in the procedural laws. The National Police Commission had said (8th report),”As yet, it is not clear to any policeman how he can investigate a case of dacoity in a perfectly legal manner, and yet secure conviction. The same is true of a number of offences.” The Commission had recommended that the legal difficulties of police be reviewed every five years.This has not received any attention so far and the problem remains.
It is also doubtful that it will be addressed anytime soon. In the meantime, then, it is suggested that videography be introduced in police work in a big way so that all interactions during stop and question operations by the police,all searches – what was unearthed, from where and who witnessed it – as also all interrogations by police are covered.
Supervision of the work of Police-Stations and enquiries into complaints is another area where immediate action is possible and needs to be taken. It is suggested that there should be one DySP-level officer to supervise every Police-Station, that an experienced prosecutor should be available in every police-district to guide investigating officers as necessary and that while enquiring into complaints, the DySP or SP (as the case might require) should co-opt a nominee of the Human Rights Commission, Women’s Commission,or the SC/ST Commission. This could ensure that enquiries are prompt and thorough and their credibility would be high.
By PD Malaviya