Making of killers in Khaki

Making of killers in Khaki

UP Police

The incident of police constable Prashant Chaudhary shooting dead Vivek Tiwari, an Apple company executive, in the early hours of September 30 in Lucknow has raised questions about the brutality of police, especially the Uttar Pradesh Police, which in recent times has gained notoriety for giving a go-by to the law of the land and turning into khaki-clad hoodlums themselves.

What is worrying is that after initial attempts to cover up the malfeasance of the constable, the entire constabulary joined hands to defend their colleague, which speaks volumes of their mindset as a collective force. Over Rs 5 lakh was deposited in the bank account of his wife within a matter of hours so they could engage a top lawyer to defend his case.

The arrogance of the accused in holding a press briefing after the incident, with other policemen behind him and his differing versions, clearly indicates that he is not remorseful for his blatant act of killing an innocent person. Known as ‘PK Don’ among his colleagues for his acts of flouting the norms of discipline and for his role in some encounters, Chaudhary was not a fit person to be recruited into the police force with his kind of inhuman attitude.

It has now been revealed that this 2016 batch constable had not, like others of his batch, received proper training, and for this it is the police top brass that stands to be blamed. The sudden intake of a large number of recruits in training institutions with limited capacities, affect their training and discipline. Many of them are known to have attended training sessions in different spells and to have spent time at their homes at will.

While in the defence forces, officers and even other ranks take pride in their posting to training institutions because of the tough selection process on merit-basis, police training institutions are viewed as dumping grounds for unwanted and inefficient personnel to be posted. Officers who are branded as “pain in the neck” types or those that do not toe the line of politicians are shifted to these institutions so that there are no obstacles in the politicians’ way. Not much can be expected of such training staff who are not highly motivated.

Lack of supervision in the functioning of lower-ranking police personnel deprives them of the guidance required from superiors, which leads to fissures in the relationship between the top brass and subordinates. The absence of interaction leads to unsavoury situations where distrust breeds and the lower ranks feel that they are a suppressed lot.

In the Lucknow incident, the constabulary as well the sub-inspectors expressed dissatisfaction with the police top brass, who they felt had let them down when two of their colleagues were put behind bars on charges of murder. Though
the Superintendent of Police initially attempted to cover up the issue by concocting a story that it was a case of accidental firing, the truth was out subsequently when Sana Khan, who was with Vivek Tiwari, narrated the sequence of events to Kalpana Tiwari, the widow of the deceased. A fresh FIR had to be lodged and action taken against the two constables.

Unplanned recruitment and sudden induction of policemen and women in large numbers has been the bane of most state and even the central paramilitary forces. In UP, there have been a large number of vacancies in the police force which, along with other factors, has sourly impacted the law and order situation in the state for a long time. About 50,000 personnel are to be soon recruited in UP Police to fill up these vacancies. While recruitment of such a large number of youngsters will pose a colossal task for the top brass, their training will be the biggest casualty. As a result, the few existing training institutions will churn out police personnel who would be anything but professional.

No better is the situation in Delhi Police, which functions directly under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. Against a proposal of 4,000 posts, the ministry has sanctioned 3,149 posts. When they are recruited, hundreds of them will have to wait for years to be called for training at the existing training schools or at hastily put up temporary training centres.

Statements by political leaders tend to send wrong signals to policemen. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was the butt of media criticism when he stated that anyone indulging in any crime will be shot dead. Such statements -- coupled with the statistics reeled off that 67 criminals had been killed, 397 wounded and 2,800 arrested in 1,481 alleged encounters since March 2017 -- send the wrong message down the rank and file of the police force: that they have the consent of the powers-that-be to go about killing people with impunity.

Political patronage emboldens policemen to target certain communities, too, as has been happening in recent months. When political leaders spew venom against certain communities openly, the message is well-received by the policemen that they can throw the law and the constitutional provisions to the winds when dealing with these communities.

Though the Supreme Court had over a decade ago ordered the setting up of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) in every state and district, this has been flouted in most states. Only a few states, like the Kerala PCA, have functioned well and objectively, pronouncing some policemen blameworthy for custodial deaths. Such PCAs need to be set up in all states.

Policing calls for a humane attitude. It is necessary to put the policemen through in-service training periodically, though the large number of vacancies in police forces may not afford that luxury. Psychologists need to be associated with training institutions to identify the bad heads and have their services terminated. The UP Police’s efforts to organise behavioural training will hopefully bring about some change in their behaviour and their attitude to their job, the people and the law.

(The writer is retired IGP, CRPF)

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