Public, policing go hand in hand

Building a good rapport with the local community is a major challenge for police officials in Indian cities. This is crucial for weaving sturdy safety net of surveillance and policing to nip criminal activities in the bud

Community policing is not a widespread model in managing law and order issues in        Indian cities. Police and the general public seldom see eye to eye. There is a need to break  the walls of fear, silence and suspicion between police and the public. Urban areas  are sprawling exponentially, and police officials are getting overburdened with managing law and order situations in ever expanding cities with limited manpower. India has poor police personnel-population ratio that is far below the global standard. There are only 106 policemen per one lakh people—less than half of the UN recommended figure of 222. With  such an inadequate force, police personnel in Indian cities face an enormous challenge of keeping citizens, their assets, and cities safe.

Building cordial relationship with local communities can help police officials in making their respective territories crime free. If there is any mischievous or unlawful activity going on in a particular community, locals know it first. If police and community have good rapport and locals do not fear harassment over sharing information or feel free to tell their grievances openly, such police-community relations can bring about a significant change on the security front at local level. Friendly relationship between police and public can benefit law enforcement agencies in controlling criminal incidents.

Such initiatives are targeted to engage communities in responsible participation in crime prevention at the local level. This not just conserves the resources, both of the community and of the police, in addressing the security concerns of society. Experience shows that by seeking the active co-operation of the public in performance of police duties, the process of Law Enforcement becomes far more effective.

The fundamental concept behind encouraging community policing is that if police officers are given ample time and fixed beats, they can learn about local concerns, address critical problems of crime and disorder of their respective territories. They can easily help the department in controlling potential criminal incidents or social brawl before they get out of control. While discharging their duties by taking locals in confidence, they can also improve frayed relations with skeptical communities.

Success in Kerala

Kerala Police pioneered in engaging local people to improve safety of neighborhoods and develop good relations with local community. The state had initiated the Janamaithri Suraksha Project in 2008. Since its inception it has been popular among citizens. The project has made tremendous impact on Kerala society. Further a number of initiatives such as establishment of Coastal Vigilance Committees and Road Safety Programmes are being implemented in the State. These programmes are also based on the philosophy, principles and practices of Community Policing.

As per the concept formulated by the Kerala police, community policing involves a philosophy of policing which is distinct from the traditional approach to policing; it is of crucial importance that appropriate training inputs are given for developing the right attitude and for imparting the relevant knowledge and skills. Appropriate training is being given to the Beat Officers, Assistant Beat Officers, and Community Liaison Groups, etc. Janamaithri Suraksha Samithi members have an important role in implementing the project. Selected persons have to be effectively trained. 1361 persons received training in Police Training College for Janamaithri Suraksha Project.

In order to popularize the concept, Janamaithri Kendrams were opened in District and Battalion Headquarters. These centres help people to come and interact with the police. To give publicity about the Project and to attract more and more engagement from local communities, various activities were undertaken. Pamphlets, booklets and other materials were distributed at local level. These documents are supplied to houses in the Beats which also provide them with information such as Beat Officer’s phone number, and other Police telephone numbers and various services available with the Police.

Recently Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also applauded the efforts of the State police and directed that such initiative should be implemented in other states too. He said during an event organised by Kerala police earlier this year that the Home Ministry is exploring the possibility of expanding the Student Police Cadet (SPC) Programme, a school based capacity development initiative of the Kerala Police, at the national level. A similar initiative was also started by Pune Police in which students were given opportunity to do an internship with police. Students used to go to a local police station for eight days to understand about basic policing and their rights and duties as
responsible citizens.

Global experience

Cities world over are implementing community policing in varying formats. The main objective of these initiatives is to make law enforcement agencies friendly. The spread of such initiatives is wide in many developed countries while developing nations are still at the nascent stage or yet to take the first step in this direction. According to a study on community policing by M Borwankar, the United Kingdom is one of the countries where community policing has been so successful that it has been reflected at the national level. The government had developed National Community Safety Plan-2006-09. Every local ward across London now has a fully staffed ‘Safer Neighbourhoods’ policing team. These teams work closely with local communities to target antisocial behaviour and crime. Six teams consisting of a police sergeant, two police constables and three Police Community Support Officers, work in every neighbourhood in the UK capital.

Such initiatives, after having reviewed local social dynamics, can be up-scaled elsewhere too for building crime-free cities. There are many states like Gujarat and Maharashtra who have initiated similar programs in their states for forging better relationship with citizens. Cities in developing countries can look out for models to adapt to suit local environments since there is no ‘one size fits all’ model.

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