RECENTLY, I went to the UP Police Academy in Moradabad to deliver a lecture to Deputy SP probationers. There a probationer shot a question: “These days so much focus is being given to humane policing. Here, in the Academy also, we are taught a lot about this. But many of us feel that this is more theoretical. What is your opinion, particularly in light of field experiences?”
There are definitely a large number of issues involved here. To begin with, a large section of our population might completely disagree with him, having a completely opposite view on the police being humane in its approach or there being any emphasis or endeavour to correct this situation. The second issue is also about the actual inputs on humane policing in police training curriculum and their efficacy, if at all.
Leaving that aside, coming directly to the point raised, we find that it is an interesting observation and an extremely important issue which needs to be analysed and answered.
My very emphatic and clear response to this question is that introducing humaneness and humane values in police and policing is not only possible, it is also much needed and, if achieved, would put the police in a win-win situation. I would also say that achieving this is not a far-fetched dream or a great impossibility but it can be achieved solely through the change of outlook and vision. I would emphasise that humane policing in no manner works against the effectiveness of police working nor does it make the police vulnerable or soft; on the contrary, it provides the much needed moral strength that would assist police personnel in their day-to-day functioning.
It is universally accepted that policing is not like defence work where there is a definite adversary. While the police need to regard criminals, anti-social persons, terrorists, and so on as opponents or adversaries, they need to avoid being unnecessarily judgemental and unduly harsh. Neither can they start making friends with these kinds of people, as the result would be disastrous. They need to take the entire exercise within the four corners of the law and not start breaking the law themselves because once the police itself starts adopting shortcuts or illegal or improper means, allegedly to achieve certain larger goals, sooner or later it is going to degenerate into a free-for-all situation where the difference between right and wrong gets blurred and the possibilities of misusing these fluid situations multiply manifold. To quote a small example, only recently a hardcore crime reporter told me that 80 per cent of police encounters are murders which the police commit mostly for money; in other words he was alleging they were hired assassins. Without commenting on the accuracy of this statement, I would say that even I have heard many stories of police officers indulging in contract killings, giving it the guise of encounters.
With regard to ordinary people, the non-criminals, the occasional accidental law-breakers and others, the need for humaneness in approach and working seems to be even more needed and practical. There would not be much dispute over the “need” aspect because everyone agrees that inhuman police and policing send wrong signals, antagonise the people, frighten them, weaken their spirit to approach the police, make them avoid the police and the police station as much as they can and also come in the way of people becoming friends and well-wishers of the police.
I believe that not only is a humane police force feasible, it is rewarding as well. The reasons for my strong belief are many. The first thing is that the police is an organisation that is basically an interactive body. Policemen do not work in isolation, in cloistered official chambers; they are there right on the ground, among the people, with the people. The work of the police, either related with law and order, maintenance of public order, investigation and detection of crime, dispute redressal, complaint cases, and so on, are always directly related with human beings, either as a complainant, as a victim, as an accused, as a perpetrator of crime, as a law-breaker or an agitator. This naturally means that the behaviour and the demeanour of the police are bound to make a lot of difference in their contact with people. If the police are more humane, it will directly bolster the confidence of people and will make them approach police in larger numbers, and help the police in their goal of maintaining law and order.
THE other benefit of a humane approach is that it changes the entire complexion and approach of this organisation. What is happening today is that whenever a person in distress approaches the police, the policeman, trained in a particular manner, starts the matter with a negative thought—the person must be lying, he/she is not speaking the truth, he/she needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, and so on. As human nature goes, trust is a reciprocal virtue. If I trust you, you will trust me in return. But the police, made to think and behave as sceptics and robots, start with the basic assumption that falsity is being divulged before them and they need to shred it to pieces. This thought is dangerous and counter-productive because while it is true that human beings are always a combination of virtue and vice, the empirical result is that they mostly reciprocate in the manner they are treated. Hence, if the police are humane with the people that approach them, the results are bound to be amazingly refreshing.
The third thing is that showing humaneness is not to be confused with being less manly or being effeminate or being prone to exploitation. I never say that the police needs to become so complacent and simplistic that they accept whatever is being stated, without verification. Professional competence, needful investigation and in-depth study of facts and evidences are a sine qua non for effective policing and it cannot be done away with at any cost. All I am saying is that while the approach needs to be professional and thorough, it is not necessary that the complainant or the person interacting with police is inevitably made to feel that she is a liar.
Summing it up, from my own personal experience and from my understanding of how the police organisation runs and can better function, I state with full confidence and responsibility that being humane in its approach is only going to strengthen the police organisation and help the police perform better. Moreover, it is quite feasible and practical. I would also say that incorporating and ingraining such an approach seems to have become a necessity today which should not be delayed at any cost.
Amitabh Thakur, an IPS officer from UP, is also working for transparency in governance. The views expressed are personal