Community policing: welcome initiative

Harishekaran P, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) interacting with students at Traffic Police Day programme organised by CMCA at Traffic Management Centre in Bengaluru on Monday, Ashish Patel, Director, CMCA, Ajai Kumar Singh, former DG and IGP

When Sir Robert Peel, who is regarded as the father of modern policing, established the London Metropolitan Police, he laid down a basic principle which is considered the seed of community policing: “The police are the public and the public are the police.” In sharp contrast, the relationship between the public and police was marked by a complete lack of trust for long.  While over the years, community policing has taken deep roots in countries like the US and the UK, it is still a far cry in India, where a deep trust deficit exists between the people and the law enforcing agencies. Against this backdrop, the “Hello Neighbour” programme proposed by Bengaluru’s new Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao is a welcome step as the involvement of public in policing will go a long way in reducing crime and enhancing the safety of the common man.

The plan involves setting up an informal beat system where a neighbourhood group will spring to the defence of residents in the vicinity during an emergency and hold fort until the police arrives. Unlike in small towns, where residents maintain cordial relations and keep a vigil for each other’s houses, Bengaluru has emerged as a city of anonymity where people are not even aware of their neighbours. As this lack of familiarity among residents is exploited by criminals, the commissioner is keen to facilitate better interaction between neighbours. Under the initiative, residents will also keep an eye on strangers and immediately report any suspicious or criminal activity to the police.

However, merely setting up neighbourhood watch groups will not serve much purpose unless the police work with the public as partners. In the UK, neighbourhood policing, introduced in 2008, is now regarded as the bedrock of British policing. Studies have revealed that the neighbourhood teams, headed by a police inspector and comprising volunteers, have led to a perceptible improvement in the quality of life of the community. Underlining the importance of trust in such a collaborative effort, a document commissioned by the Community Policing Consortium, US, says the use of “unnecessary force and arrogance, aloofness or rude behaviour will dampen the willingness of the community to ally themselves with the police”. The police are no longer the sole guardians of law and order, and all members of the community should become active allies to enhance the safety of neighbourhoods, the document adds. With the crime graph steadily rising in Bengaluru, a safe environment can be ensured only when the police and public toil together in an atmosphere of mutual trust.  “Hello Neighbour” will hopefully work towards this end and make the city a better place to live in.

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