Karnataka police at the crossroads

Karnataka police at the crossroads

Three recent incidents concerning officers of deputy superintendent of police (DySP) rank in Karnataka indicate that all is not well with the state police. Coming close on the heels of the aborted police constables strike, they have created a political storm and made people worry about the capacity of the police to protect them.

The first incident involved resignation of a directly recruited DySP, Anupama Shenoy. She was in the news earlier over her transfer after an alleged spat with a minister.
Though her transfer was cancelled later, she soon resigned and used social media to attack her tormentors and hinted that her subordinates were hand in glove with vested interests and disobeyed her lawful orders. If her allegations are true, discipline and obedience of law, the most essential attributes for police, are being ignored  by many.

This is also evident by the suicide of Chikkamagaluru DySP Kallappa Handibag, Anupama’s  batchmate. An FIR was filed against him alleging that he and four others kidnapped and released a person after ransom was paid. Learning about the FIR, he fled to Belagavi and committed suicide by hanging.

Though there is a talk that the kidnapping was only to settle a monetary transaction, and that Kallappa was framed, there is no denial that his phone was used to seek ransom and that he had no business to be involved in such transactions.

Police officers unofficially settling property disputes for a price are becoming far too common in cities. Considering that Kallappa was still a fresher in the department, this incident, if true, corroborates the belief that the selection process of DySPs done by Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC) is not fair. It also indicates inadequacies in their basic training.

Both Anupama and Kallappa were less than six years into their service. Both allegedly had differences with their immediate superiors. Serving police officers attribute this to the deep distrust and suspicion some district SPs have towards directly recruited DySPs and say that generally the working relations between them are far from good. Such an atmosphere breeds indiscipline in the rank and file.

Discipline in the police force has also eroded because of the role of non-police persons in deciding transfers and postings of officers. It is alleged that Station House Officers and above, pay huge amounts to get their postings of choice. Such officers recover this cost speedily as one is not assured of tenures longer than a year. Taking bribes and complicity with criminals are some methods of recovery.
In fact, DySP Ganapathy who committed suicide wearing his uniform hinted about how postings are decided not on merit. He also alleged that he was frustrated by the demands made on him by his superiors and politicians. That Ganapathy was involved in many cases of misconduct earlier, which apparently delayed his promotion, is being glossed over.

Ganapathy and Anupama going to the media are acts of misconduct. But their actions indicate that the police leadership has not addressed their grievances. Though there is a grievance redressal mechanism in the department, it is proving inadequate. The placement of officers is the key to better policing. Even though there is a Police Establishment Board, it may not be functioning as it should. Only if it functions well, the police will function well.

The truth about these incide-nts will soon be revealed. But th-ey, along with the aborted police strike, lead to a diagnosis that something is seriously wrong with the police. Thanks to the HC, the recruitment process of DySPs may undergo a change. But what is required is good training which makes new entrants mentally and ethically strong and capable of facing tricky situations and not escape them by suicides or resignation.

Undesirable acts
There are several levels of supervision in the police and if all these perform well, undesirable acts of policemen can be prevented. Police officers having serious allegations of misconduct mostly go scot-free. This should change.

The police department has a pyramidal structure.  Those sitting at the top have to be a role model for others and their selection should be done with utmost care and caution. The fact that such incidents witnessed in the past few weeks are happening too frequently shows laxity on the part of the top brass.

Some observers see that there is no cohesion among the senior officers and the department is divided on many lines. It also indicates lack of assertion to run the department in a professional manner.

It is 10 years since the Sup-reme Court mandated reforms in the police department. It is ironic that all the issues brought out above were addressed by the court, but it appears that the court directions have been deftly circumvented.

There is no doubt that some police officers are transgressing the rule of law; that the selection, training, placement and supervision of police officers need tightening; that the department has to be made to run professionally. Unless these issues are seriously addressed, the system will collapse and the citizen has to pay a heavy price for this.

(The writer is a retired Director General of Police, Karnataka)

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