Police need better man management

The ghastly killing of a police sub inspector, by a constable within the police station premises in Bangalore two days ago, underscores the fact that all is not well with the police department in the state. It is also clear that the police reforms required to be undertaken following the Supreme Court ruling in the Prakash Singh case mostly remain on paper. The system is crying for a thorough overhaul.

The acts of uniformed personnel killing their superiors are not new. The CRPF and the CISF have faced many such incidents. However they are rare in a non-paramilitary police set up, especially in Karnataka. Many reasons can be attributed for such heinous acts, but the one that stands out is stress. Lower level police functionaries are subjected to tremendous stress, due to long and unhealthy working hours, lack of leave and recreation, pressure from superiors and public to show results, unhealthy and unsuitable work and living space, ego clashes and a sense of helplessness.
Only 40 per cent of the lower level police officials are provided residential quarters which are more often dilapidated.Majority of police personnel commute to their work places from long distances. Most often they are neither granted weekly offs nor allowed to proceed on leave citing shortage of staff. Many perform duties well beyond 8 hours daily and they are not provided any recreation.

Showing indiscipline

Most of the constabulary have a complaint that their grievances are not adequately addressed by the superiors and that if any problem is pointed out, the aggrieved is taken to task for ‘showing indiscipline.’

Many years ago supervisory officers were expected to hold regular meetings with the subordinate staff, listen to their grievances and solve them. Nowadays the interaction between senior officers with the constabulary has become extremely rare. Even the station house officer (SHO) who is expected to take a roll call of his staff every day and interact with them is not doing so as he is very busy retaining his own chair. Most of the SHOs are indebted to their political masters for their postings. Hence they are more bothered to please their political contacts rather than effectively manage the police station. There was a time when an efficient SHO would get recognition by his superiors and get challenging assignments. The grievances of the constables, their work allotment, leave etc., are mostly handled by the station writer.

In many states there is a huge shortage of police personnel. In Karnataka itself almost 20 per cent of the sanctioned posts are said to be vacant. To manage the police force effectively,  there is a need to have reserve posts for leave, training, deputation to other organisation etc., which forms 30 per cent of the sanctioned strength. Since posts are not getting filled up on a regular basis, there is a snowball effect which results in leave and training taking a big hit.

In many military and paramilitary organisations, avenues are always created for de-stressing. This may be in the form of sports and games, group activities, counselling, welfare programmes etc. However in state police forces such activities are not given prominence.

It is often stated that in the name of discipline lower level police officials are ill-treated. The instances of verbal abuse are innumerable. When this author conducted a survey among constabulary in Karnataka a few years ago, this fact stood out. Unlike yester years, well educated and highly qualified persons are joining the department and they resent ill treatment and injustice. This results in verbal clashes between the seniors and subordinates which may escalate into serious incidents.

Most of the lower rung police men and women have a very low self-esteem. This is because not only their seniors but society in general treats them badly. Once when I asked many trainee police men the reason for leaving their jobs to take up other government jobs like teachers and clerks, the common reply was all other professionals are treated with respect by the public but not the police. In fact the police continue to be the most favorite whipping boy of the public.

What is the remedy? The man management within the department needs to be improved urgently. Not only should the sanctioned posts be increased but adequate man power planning needs  to be done. Police training needs better focus and all supervisors are taught how to be good man managers. Adequate avenues for stress relief need to be created and there must be better communication between various ranks. Grievance redressal mechanism needs activation. The constable needs to be treated with dignity by the public and lastly, the police department should be allowed to be run by the DGP rather than others.

(The author is a retired DGP)

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