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No control freaks, please

india Updated: Jun 24, 2010 23:31 IST
Kiran Bedi

The World Cup football is causing a thunder in South Africa with fans celebrating every goal. Yet, the police are invisible, doing their job quietly and unobtrusively, which is what’s required in major events.

Similar arrangements were made for the Winter Olympics held in Vancouver earlier this year. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were in charge of the security but 119 other police agencies were also involved. They demanded good working conditions for their personnel and received funds to hire three cruise ships to house the officers as hotels and dormitories were booked.

The police created a joint intelligence group that began its operations almost two years before the event. They verified all bidders of contracts to keep a check on corruption.

Every incident in the city was logged and put into a database. The police followed the situational crime prevention principles by focusing on radicalisation, motivation and interaction in local communities. Not only al-Qaeda and its affiliates but also people sympathetic to other terrorists groups were kept under strict watch. At all times, the RCMP worked closely with fire and ambulance services. Despite massive construction work in the city, no inconvenience was caused to the citizens. The police also hired criminologists to audit crime trends. An intelligence system monitored every incident in the city. Even if a person went to a hospital with chemical burn injuries, the police were alerted and the injury was investigated for possible connections to explosives. Success came from paying close attention to integrated planning, leadership, training and the involvement of citizens.

These measures hold major lessons for police in India. No effort can succeed if the police don’t involve people. But this cannot happen until the people themselves trust the police. The Delhi Police (and Indian police) don’t enjoy a good reputation among people. There are apprehensions over ad hoc and unpublicised traffic diversions, orders for the closure of shops and schools, and the shutting down of ‘polluting’ factories weeks before the Commonwealth Games. The perception is that while the common man will suffer from the chaos, the police will take care of VIPs. What’s apparent, however, is that the police’s daily work will be suspended for the duration of the Games and they will aggressively control crowds and protests, if any. All this is because nothing is known about the police’s plans.

However, the Games provides the police an opportunity to win back trust. We demand the following from the Delhi (and the Indian) Police: seek public support to provide security for the games, inform people about the security steps, train its officers to interact politely with citizens, keep police deployment and presence in the background as much as possible and give no special treatment to either VIPs or officials in getting to the Games venues.

The RCMP adopted the motto ‘Intelligence led safe and secure Games’. When asked by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on what will be the mark of failure of police preparations, the RCMP commissioner replied: “If people leave the venue remembering only the security then it will be a failure of policing.” Let us ensure that nobody leaves the city on a bad note vis-à-vis security. Let Delhi, as a city, win a gold medal.

Kiran Bedi is a retired IPS officer The views expressed by the authors are personal