India's police might finally have someone holding the mirror to its face.
The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) on Wednesday began work on a set of agreements with nearly a dozen universities across the country to get them to take a close look at the police to tell them where they stand and why.
"We have today finalised the memorandum of understanding to be signed with the universities to encourage them to undertake research in police areas," Kiran Bedi, director general, BPR&D, said after a meeting with registrars and representatives of 11 universities including Mumbai's Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.
While the MoUs go through the formal process for approval at the university, Bedi got a commitment out of the officials to take up a preliminary survey on why the police did not register FIRs as had happened in the grisly Nithari killings.
"The universities will report back with their findings on May 4," she said.
Arvind Verma, who quit policing to teach at Indiana University in US, has long argued for deepening research into policing in the country.
Besides letting the world, and the policemen, know where the police stands, research also helps in opening up police and police systems to greater scrutiny and encourages transparency.
It is not that universities do not study policing but the lack of access has been a big problem, one that even Bedi - a police officer - faced when she tried to study if drug-addiction led addicts to commit crimes among Tihar prisoners or they became addicts in the murky world of crime. Bedi had the change her research topic after months of waiting for permission.
On Wednesday, the university officials said police officers were not anymore helpful than they ever were.
The MoU will commit BPR&D to facilitate greater access to researchers in police establishments and police data.
"That should make a great difference. The problem today is that researchers do not get access to data as they are treated as confidential," said Dr D Shah of Kolkata's National University of Juridical Sciences. "The initiative will take time to make a difference but a beginning was necessary. This is it," said Sandeep Chatterjee, TISS Registrar.
Prof RS Bawa of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, said the MoU would enable researchers to undertake comparative studies between police in different states and among central forces. "It is an area that state police do not normally get into," he said.