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Reforming the Police

A few steps to make Dehra Dun Police People Friendly

One of the few things which appear not to have changed since the British left India is the Indian Police. To most of us it still is an icon of unchecked authority and something best avoided. A Police Station is the last place on earth anyone wants to be seen in.

Police is a huge monolithic structure, which is why it is difficult to change it. But then so is the Indian Railways, the Public sector banks and offices, all of which have changed the way people view them and have become much more user friendly. If they can change, why can’t the public face of the Police be changed?

Reforming the police is a huge process, which the National Police Commission and the Supreme Court are thankfully addressing. Changing the entire machinery is a time taking process requiring political will, but changing the public interface of police should not be difficult, and the politicians should not be averse to it.

Efforts by the Uttarakhand administration to call it a “Mitr Police” (friendly police) and by changing the color of its uniform have not really made much of an impact. Giving moral lectures to policemen and waiting for their “conscious” to wake up is just not practical.

So, how can we make Uttarakhand Police user friendly? By changing the “user interface” seems to be the obvious answer. And the user interface in this case is the Police Station. The appearance of a police station when it was used by the British Police is still the same today when it is used by the Indian Police. The aim then was to scare the people into submission and not to invite them in to share their problems.

So they made an imposing building with solid walls to drown their misdeeds. A block of rooms is usually the main office with a detention centre in one remote corner of the compound, far away from prying eyes, so that nobody knows who goes in and what happens there. Everything was aimed at giving the least transparency and greatest privacy, to do good or bad, usually the bad. This is not how a modern Indian police station should be. It should be a modern, open, welcoming building, with shoulder height cubicles for policemen to sit and work in and a chamber with glass walls for the CO of the Station. The lockup should be in the central part of this office, visible to everyone, so that it is difficult to do unlawful deeds in it. The need to color outer walls of all Police Stations brick red could also be debated.

Equipping Dehra Dun’s 17 Police Stations with a broadband computer cannot be too expensive for the government. Instructions to police stations are presently dictated on the wireless and noted down by someone, wasting so much time and energy, when it can be so easily be sent with the click of a mouse. With Hindi Fonts and Programs, it is easy to train personnel in using computers. Webcams could also be placed allowing easier and efficient communication with the Police HQ and between different Police Stations. Webcams in Detention Rooms are a must to avoid abuse of power.

NGO’s could be involved in improving the relationship between the public and police. An NGO help desk in all police stations will go a long way in raising trust levels. By doing random follow up visits to visitors to the Police Station to assess their experience and get follow up they can provide a valuable insight can be achieved. They could also be used to monitor the people detained in the police station lockups.

All these steps will convince the people that the era of unmonitored absolute power of the British Police in India is over and the modern police is a law abiding, people friendly and accountable police. If successful in Dehra Dun, they can be gradually implemented all over Uttarakhand to lead the rest of the country.

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From: Shalini Patwal
Of course the police stations must be made user friendly, but the human "interface" could be the first step towards this move for a public friendly profile. The UK police got kudos for their handling of the crowds during the recently held Kumbh Mela. Such training could be imparted to the entire corps and as a regular training exercise. The traffic cops could be the first in line for this. redesigning the police stations, even if only the facade could be an issue of budget, but could be done in a step by step manner. Though it is, i guess, more a question of intent and willingness than budget.