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COMMUNITY POLICING IN INDIA: REALISTIC OR UTOPIAN?

INTRODUCTION

Community policing, in simple terms, is the active participation of the relevant stakeholders in maintaining the law and order in society. It is essentially the coming together of the police officers and other citizens of the region. It happens through interaction between police officials and the citizens for resolving problematic issues related to the legal affairs of the region. Effective participation of the citizens stands at the core of community policing.[1] The significance of community policing was realized during the Covid-19 pandemic when it would have been extremely difficult for the administration to solely manage the affairs without the support of the common folk. It indeed seems to be a golden strategy that offers a wide array of benefits as a law enforcement policy. However, the question is how far is it feasible to be implemented effectively in India?  

BENEFITS OF COMMUNITY POLICING

Community Policing offers a plethora of benefits to all its stakeholders. It offers an understanding of the laws in place to the common people and this awareness of the legal provisions is of utmost importance. Hence, it functions as an effective crime deterrent. Community policing involves the decentralization of power and responsibility. It also enhances the safety and security of individuals resulting in the overall welfare of the region. One of the key advantages offered by the policy is that it fosters a spirit of cooperation and establishes a support system. There is improved trust and understanding between the police and the citizens leading to better functioning of the legal machinery. This is to be done by building channels of dialogue aimed at improving the collaboration between the two.[2] It could function as an efficient mechanism aiding the processes at several levels of investigation. It inculcates a greater sense of responsibility and accountability in the police as well as the public. Another benefit of community policing is that it initiates a series of positive interactions and enhances social integration. There is mutual acquaintance between the policemen and the public. There is an enhanced level of social security available to the community. The burden on the administration is also reduced because of improved cooperation from the public. There may also be a greater sense of unity and peace within the community.

ROADBLOCKS

Though community policing is backed by popular support, there are certain roadblocks in attaining the fruition of the requisite model of community policing. The distrust between the police and the public and within the community itself poses a formidable difficulty in the successful implementation of community policing. This lack of trust also results in unwillingness on the part of the stakeholders to share power and undertake initiatives. The actual number of police personnel per one lakh of the population as of 2020, is 155.[3] The United Nations recommends 222 police personnel per one lakh of population.[4] This only uncovers a saturated and overburdened administration with an enormous workload. This may impede the successful execution of community policing. Police is a subject under the state list.[5] Besides, owing to the different requirements of the states, a uniform model of community policing may not be possible. This may result in disparities in the success of community models among the states.  However, all these difficulties could substantially be overcome provided that the stakeholders are willing to take steps in the right direction.

WAY FORWARD

There are certain prerequisites for community policing to work successfully. Volunteering for community projects and projects assisting the legal machinery is an important aspect of community policing. Though community policing seeks to bridge the trust deficit between the police and the public, there must be willingness on the part of stakeholders to participate in the initiative and to develop trust and reliance. This is to be achieved by spreading awareness and acquainting people with the idea and benefits associated with community policing. It is also essential that the stakeholders are made aware of the roadblocks and the efforts needed to overcome those. Accountability and transparency have to be increased. A structured model aiming at two essential facets of community policing, pro-active steps and localized decision making should be made. Pro-active steps are essentially the crux of community policing that will enhance cooperation and partnership leading to acceptance and trust of the community towards the police officers. Localized decision-making will involve the participation of both the stakeholders in working out and implementing decisions.[6] It advocates a change in the nature of policing. The formulation of such a structured and decentralized model is not an easy task and requires a lot of deliberation and contemplation before such a model, suitable to the Indian society, is accomplished. An all-encompassing approach must be adopted in devising and implementing a model of community policing. The analysis will have to be made at all levels. Viewpoints of different classes and minorities and their relations with the local administration are also paramount in this respect. Institutionalization has to be there to avoid the failure of community policing programmes as has been noted in the past.[7] Community police training centres and documentation centres could be established as has been noted by the National Police Mission Compendium on Projects, which has proposed an overarching Community Policing model.[8]

CONCLUSION

Commendable initiatives have been taken in various states regarding community policing, for instance, the establishment of Community Liaison Groups (CLGs) is a laudable step forward in this direction.[9] These initiatives only underpin the positive attitude of the police and the public towards community policing. However, a full-fledged model should be devised for the adoption of community policing on a much wider scale. The success of community policing depends on many determinants, the most important of which is the willingness of the stakeholders to participate in the initiative. To make community policing a reality, there has to be a steady implementation of the model. It can prove to be the bridge to the trust deficit between the police and the public in India. It may be the key to delivering justice much more efficiently and filling the lacunas that exist in the present legal machinery.

Author(s) Name: Diya Gaur (Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab)

References:

[1] Sampat Singh Shekhawat ‘ Policing and Community Policing System in India for Controlling Crimes’ (2019) 16 (4) JASRAE 1125, 1129-1130 < http://ignited.in/I/a/200936> accessed 4 June 2022

[2] Mellisa Morgan, ‘Community Policing : A Better Way to Improve Policing or Bust’ ( Stanford Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, November 30, 2021) < https://fsi.stanford.edu/news/community-policing-better-way-intervene-or-bust-practice> accessed 2 June 2022

[3] Bureau of Police Research and Development, Data on Police Organisations (2020), <https://bprd.nic.in/WriteReadData/userfiles/file/202012291250220703686DOPO29.12.2020.pdf> accessed 4 June 2022

[4] Vikrant Singh Kushwah, ‘Why India Needs Urgent Police Reforms’ (Observer Research Foundation, 4 Dec 2018) https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/why-india-needs-urgent-police-reforms-46003/ accessed 4 June 2022

[5] The Constitution of India, 1950 Art 246.

[6] Chakraborty, Tapan. ‘Prospect Of Community Policing: An Indian Approach.’ (2003) 64 (3/4) The Indian Journal of Political Science 251,253 < http://www.jstor.org/stable/41855784> accessed 3 Jun. 2022

[7] Ibid at 262

[8]  Bureau of Police Research and Development,‘Police Community Partnership (An Overarching Community Policing Model)’  https://bprd.nic.in/WriteReadData/userfiles/file/201907030914292113268POLICE-COMMUNITYPARTINERSHIP-MM-02.pdf accessed 4th June 2022

[9] Sushil Manav ‘Sirsa Police constitute Community liaison Groups’ The Tribune (Sirsa, August 3, 2015) < https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/archive/features/community-liaison-groups-114704> accessed 4 June 2022