Police conduct during pandemic won public trust: Study

Police conduct during pandemic won public trust: Study

Police worked through a community policing model and engaged with citizen volunteers during the pandemic, the survey found. Credit: DH File Photo

A study of policing methods during the Covid-19 pandemic last year has found a surprising amount of positive engagement between members of the general public and the police. 

The findings, entitled ‘Policing in Bengaluru during the Covid-19 Pandemic: Learning and next steps’, was released on Wednesday and upends previously recorded social distrust of police, said Janaagraha, the nonprofit which carried out the study through interactions with 525 ordinary citizens, including stranded migrants from October to November. 

According to Katie Pyle, Head of Research and Insights, Janaagraha, 65% of the respondents said they interacted with the police more during the pandemic than ever before. 

“During the pandemic, the vast majority of citizens felt that there were more police personnel on the streets than ever before in Bengaluru. Some 61% of men and 67% of women surveyed said that they strongly agree that Bengaluru police have done a “good job” during the pandemic,” she added. 

The central takeaway of the study was how positively the work of the police was received by the public during the pandemic, said Volker Lennart Plän, resident representative of the Hannes Seidel Foundation, a German taxpayer-funded political research organisation which funded the study. “And this is quite striking considering that we focus on a metropolitan area where you usually find people that are very vocal about their criticism,” he said. 

Janaagraaha said much of the positivity stemmed from the police working through a community policing model and engaging with citizen volunteers at scale. 

Several experts pointed out the police could have better supported daily-wage workers and migrant communities during the lockdown and after. Plän also noted that police from 24 stations who were surveyed separately for the study had noted that they would welcome a little bit more training on communication with the citizens.

Police reform possible 

“The findings have brought about the importance of community policing in changing the public perception of police,” said P K H Tharakan, a former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), a former advisor to the Governor of Karnataka and a former chief of the Kerala state police. 

“Let’s take in the study and try to propagate the need for legislation, to institutionalise community policing in the police systems in our country, starting with Karnataka,” he added. 

For Isha Pant, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Command Centre, Bengaluru, the findings reflect a change in the attitudes of ordinary citizens to the police she had observed during the pandemic. “Interacting with the police in public meetings broke down barriers and showed that we are not monsters,” she said, acknowledging, however, that not everything is perfect in the police. 

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