Cop apathy beats community policing

India on 12 August 2013
Location : Thiruvananthapuram, India | Source : Deccan Chronicle. Image Source: Deccan Chronicle

Ever since its formal launch in 2008, Janamaithri Suraksha community policing has been a buzzword in the state. The police officials of the stations where community policing was initially introduced, were familiar with almost all residents in their station limits. Local people mingled freely with the police and even assisted them in night patrolling in robbery-prone areas.

Five years down the line, the scenario has taken a nose dive. The main reason for this is the lack of support from higher-ups. This weakened the novel initiative that brought police and the public together.

The routine meetings of Janamaithri committees of police personnel and local residents, as well as the police visits to the localities in their limits, have become superficial exercises.

Despite its effectiveness in forging a cordial bond between the police and public as well as in curbing anti-social activities in residential areas, community policing was often considered a low- priority activity. Owing to the lack of proper monitoring, beat patrolling was made a convenient time for many cops to do their personal work by abstaining from duty.

Though two- wheelers were allotted exclusively for community policing work, those vehicles were used for other routine activities of the police station. The police officers who were deployed for community policing were burdened with other routine duties and hence many lost interest in taking the additional burden of community policing.

Though Janamaithri Suraksha community policing was formally rolled out in the state only in 2008, the process of interaction between police and public was being carried out actively in cities like Thiruvananthapuram under different titles.

A routine meeting between representatives of residents’ associations and police officers of the city on every second Saturday, that began in 2005-06, is still continuing as a regular affair.

The Janamaithri Suraksha programme was piloted in 20 police stations in 2008 March. Later it was extended to 228 police stations in a phased manner and at present the programme is in effect at 248 police stations in the state.

As per the programme, there should be beat officers, assistant beat officers and community liaison groups in each police station. "We don’t have enough manpower to handle routine work. So community policing activity is also getting a backseat," said the sub-inspector of one of the police stations in which the initiative was piloted effectively.

‘Politicisation made the move ineffective’

Thiruvananthapuram: Politicisation of the police force and frequent transfers of police officers are major reasons for community policing becoming ineffective. In order to make it effective, community policing should be made a separate wing in the police, said Dr. K Alexander, principal of St. Dominic’s College in Kanjirapally.

“During the initial years of its launch, community policing was very effective. A case study on the impact of Janamaithri Suraksha programme at Adoor and Paravoor police stations done in 2010 had shown that the crime rate in those station limits came down by about 20 percent,” he said.

Dr Alexander had represented the government of India at an international symposium on policing organised by UNO in New York last year where he presented a paper on the community policing initiative in Kerala. He also conducted a number of studies on community policing in Kerala.

“Though community policing went off well during the initial years of its launch, due to politicization, police officials involved in community activities were transferred frequently.

The norm that one police official should be retained at a station at least for three years was not followed. Moreover many officers in the ranks of sub-inspectors, circle-inspectors and DySPs lacked much interest in pursuing community policing,” said Dr. Alexander. He also suggested that specialized training on human rights and communication should be given to the police personnel deployed for community policing.

The basic objective of community policing was to establish a cordial relationship with the local people, identify crimogenic spots and design and initiate measures to curb crime with the support of the local community. There should be 10 to 15 beat officers in each station to have a ratio of one beat officer per 1000 families, he said.

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