The ‘Elite Class’ of Indian Police Service Needs a Reformation

A sense of despondency overtakes one at the inaptitude displayed by elite IPS in several cases. The worse instances were of Police Commissioner of Delhi turning logic and law on its head in the JNU case last year by putting the onus on the accused to prove innocence and ‘faux pas’ of IG NOIDA during a press briefing in the Arushi Talwar murder case when answering a query, said words to effect “wo bhi utni hi corrupt thi jitney uske ma-baap.” (She was as corrupt as her mother and father)

A handful of conscientious officers apart, there is general entropy in the professionalism and social skills of IPS brass leading the Police forces. The IPS is therefore in urgent need of reform to ensure effective policing.

My considered view is that it is the elitist feeling among the IPS that’s at the root of the ailing police system This precludes them from comprehending ground realities and prevents them from becoming leaders rather than managers. Their aim remains to contain political fallout and focus on managing politicians, leaving day-to-day work to lower functionaries. Common people are rarely the focus.

Police: Exploiters or Facilitators?

Political interference and non-implementation of police reforms are blamed for all the ills of the police system. While that may be true to some extent, police leadership must take initiative to implement measures within their realm of authority.

The IPS leadership must take steps to change the perception of police from exploiters to facilitators so that the public stops despising and making fun of them. They need to transform the character of police to that of “service” as opposed to “force”.

Proactive crime prevention and follow-up investigation has to be the priority in order to ensure reduction in crime and improvement in the conviction rate. Modernisation should focus on training and other aspects of human resource management, apart from incorporating modern investigative practices and forensics rather than simply acquiring swanky vehicles and computers.

The Elite “Brown Sahibs”

A total overhaul of the recruitment system is the need of the hour. The aim of direct recruitment to the IP (Imperial Police) was to perpetuate the British rule and not for any higher purpose of ensuring impartiality. It was open only to the British and was rolled-out for natives very reluctantly.

The government during the time of independence chose to continue with the system, perhaps because of intellectual laziness. The system has succeeded in creating an elite class of “Brown Sahibs” who fiercely protect their turf and perks, and perpetuate the status quo.

The mess created by this arrangement has to be addressed. Having qualified in a fiercely competitive exam, IPS officers are mostly chair-bound and loathe to learn the ropes through ground-level policing. They must develop an eye for detail and become proficient in matters of policing to be able to properly guide their subordinates.

A Two-Step Selection Process

Something like the Limited Departmental Competitive Examination (LDCE) is therefore recommended, where recruitment should initially be done at the level of constable, and only the proficient amongst them allowed to appear in a competitive exam after attaining certain years of experience on the beat, to be elevated as a subordinate officer.

After learning the process of criminal investigation, prosecution, etc, the proficient amongst them should be further put through another LDCE and the ones who succeed can become IPS. This will expose the contenders to adequate ground experience before taking up supervisory responsibility. In fact, this model can be replicated for other services too. Detailed modalities for the system can be worked out.

Another alternative method of recruitment could be on lines similar to that of Defence Services Officers through an institution similar to NDA immediately after qualifying class 12 and being put through rigorous academic, social skills and professional training through a four-year training programme.

Psychological profiling of prospective police officers is also essential to reduce the chances of undesirable candidates getting selected solely on the strength of their academic knowledge.

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Curriculum to be Focused on Practical Aspects and Social Skills

During a private discussion, a retired IPS officer who also was DG BSF, lamented that important aspects like exposure to law-related matters, which the IPS have to deal with throughout their career, consisted of periods equivalent to just 36 days in a training curriculum of two years.

The curriculum of IPS training at the basic and subsequent in-service programmes therefore, also needs to be reviewed after analysis of performance gaps. Ideally, the curriculum at basic level should focus mainly on practical aspects and enhancing social skills.

Policing in states is also adversely effected due to the irrational deputation policy and keenness of IPS for deputation to even sundry inconsequential positions to Delhi or their home state despite a critical deficiency of over 30 percent IPS in some states. This not only deprives these officers of core policing experience, but also deprives cutting-edge leadership to state police.

Policymakers therefore need to seriously review the existing deputation policy to ensure that all officers obtain at least 15 years of core policing experience at the district level.

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The policy of time-bound promotions leads to an anomalous situation, where almost every state has vacancies of Director Generals in the high double-digits, and every IPS officer rises to become Director General. A methodology to link promotion to performance at every level must be devised.

Effective policing is the first step towards creating a safe, crime-free, and just society. The police leadership has an extremely important role to play in ensuring this aim. It is therefore essential that the police leadership consist only of the most suitable and conscientious officers. Urgent reforms in selection and training of IPS officers is therefore the need of the hour.

(The writer retired from the BSF as an additional director-general and can be reached on Twitter @ sood_2. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)