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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

WHY A POLICEMAN DOESN'T FILE AN FIR?

By Danish Raza (Guest Writer)

The Indian police often face the worst Indian justice system. The man in khaki has given up. Almost! Speaking on the wireless, he tells his bosses sitting in Delhi Police Headquarters to send another battalion of uniformed men. While his seniors contemplate the demand, he once again tries to negotiate with a group of 200 Jawarlal Nehru university students who are demanding the removal of his top boss, Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar.


Angry over the rape of a five year old girl, the students have laid siege to ITO, one of the busiest crossroads in the national capital, on a Sunday evening. He fails yet again. He now knows that he will have to resort to force. Impromptu, he turns to more than a dozen reporters covering the protest in frustration: “We are always caught in the middle. We are hounded wherever we go. I have been asked to deploy my men at shopping malls, railway stations and bus terminals. I also have to provide security to VIPs. Then these rape cases. I am like…shift me to fisheries, horticulture, anywhere. But not police.”

For decades now, men like him — the aam janta’s first point of contact with the police — bear the brunt of public rage, wrath, be it abuses, stones or slippers. Irrespective of their rank and authority, the average policeman becomes the symbol of all the ills of the judicial system.

But a closer look at the police force as an institution reveals that a policeman is a product of a system that incentivises the worst practices: non-registration of FIRs, indifferent attitude towards lower income groups, illegal detentions and custodial deaths.

One problem with the policemen in this country is that there simply aren’t enough of them. Vacancies in police forces reveal a force that is overworked and undermanned. Bureau of Police Research & Development data shows that as on 01.01.2012, the total national strength of police force (armed and civil) was 5.39 lakh less than the sanctioned strength. Chandigarh has the maximum number of policemen available per 100 sq. kms (also known as the police- area ratio) followed by Delhi and Lakshadweep. And yet, in terms of absolute numbers, Delhi is 6,000 members short of the required strength.

Increasing the number of police personnel, however, will achieve little in the absence of training, said V N Rai, former director, National Police Academy.

“Police is the only government entity in the country, after defence, which has been recruiting growing number of young people for past 15-20 years. But they don’t get converted into a human resource,” he said.

Citing the example of Delhi gang-rape, Rai said, “We saw how Delhi police wasted crucial time infighting over jurisdiction which might have lead to victim’s death. After that incident, has Delhi police trained its staff to be more sensitive towards people? No. A big part of the training is still devoted to lathi charge and dealing with abnormal situations.”

Bad training makes for bad cops, more so when they enter the force with bad attitudes. Male cops often blame women for inviting rape and shun complainants from Dalit community because of biases and prejudices they bring with them when they join the police force.

“Ideally, they should be constitutionally conditioned during their training. They should be like a clean slate before they are deputed at police stations,” said Rai.

If training does little to change their attitudes, experiences in the job can often corrupt the best. The organisational culture within the police force favours the corrupt, and often corrupts the honest.

“Organizational culture works at three levels”, said JS Pandey, former Director General of Police, Uttarakhand, “Individual, systemic and peer. They reinforce each other. Police subculture itself gets reinforced by systemic pressures that we put on policemen in general.”

Cops at Gandhi Nagar police station might have refused to register the FIR in the case of rape of the five-year-old because, like policemen across the country, they too want to fudge the crime figures. Lower the crime rate at a than, better the performance rating of its officers.

The pressure to get “results” also leads to a host of other illegal police behavior. “How do they deal with them? They find the suspect, put him through psychological pressure, torture him, and try to work out the case. Somewhat similar is the strategy for crime control. Police officers believe that whoever has been arrested cannot leave the police station without getting limbs broken. Police wants to create this fear. Even honest officers, even IPS officers, who have never indulged in torture, start indulging in torture, and all illegalities,” says Pandey, who argues that the organizational culture cannot be changed unless we change the way we assess police performance.

According to Pandey, the performance of police personnel should be judged not by the number of reported crimes, but by their response to crime.

“In the Delhi gangrape case, they allegedly wasted crucial time arguing over jurisdiction. In Aarushi case, police could not locate the body of the servant, Hemraj, which was lying on the rooftop. These are factors which speak volumes about the quality of probe and should be taken into consideration while assessing police performance,” he says.

In a national conference on police reforms conducted in March 2013 by Commonwealth Human Right Initiative (CHRI), an international organisation based in New Delhi, Jacob Punnoose, former DGP, Kerala, said, “Higher crime rate is not a bad thing. Norway by universal acceptance has got the most honest civil service. It is number one in world peace index. Number of crimes registered is 14000 per lakh population, in India it is 240 per lakh population.”

It is ironic that the refusal to register an FIR — in order to maintain the appearance of police efficiency — has instead helped further destroy their credibility.

“The FBI arrested suspect in Boston bombing. Delhi police arrested the accused in rape of the five-year-old. While the US citizens applauded their police force for prompt action, Delhi police got flak. That’s because initially, Delhi police refused to register FIR,” said P S Bawa, IPS (rtd) and Chairman, Transparency International.

Even if the police force were to be equipped with sufficient manpower and resources, they will have little impact without proper planning.

“What is police doing in terms of planning? Whether its government allocating money to police or police seeking more funds, they don’t take into consideration the work load and crime stats in various localities,” said Navaz Kotwal, programme coordinator, police reforms, CHRI.

Is the government unaware if these systemic flaws which plague the India police? “The system does not want good policing. It wants a police force which let it do what it wants to do and ensure that inconvenience come to their doorstep,” concluded Rai.
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