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Random Forays: Police needs image makeover

“We should celebrate excellence across ranks and sates. A country that takes pride in its armed forces should also be able to take pride in its police.”

columns Updated: Feb 18, 2018 15:06 IST
Vivek Atray
In this era of social media-enabled scoffing and watchdogs in every nook and corner, the plight of police personnel becomes even more pitiable.
In this era of social media-enabled scoffing and watchdogs in every nook and corner, the plight of police personnel becomes even more pitiable.(HT File)

The police in India, and at most places across the world, are forever battling with popularity crisis. Society is never gung-ho or full of praise for them. Such is the ungrateful and unrecognised nature of the profession.

A policeman represents the most visible face of governance, it is rightly visible on streets as well. Anything that an unsuspecting cop does in public eye can be scrutinised and criticised. If a cop is found scratching himself somewhere or blowing his nose or simply yawning, he becomes the potential butt of ridicule for the passersby. If he is indulging in unwarranted behaviour, he becomes the first to be vilified. Those who sit behind desks in offices and conduct themselves dishonestly or inappropriately are less likely to get noticed except if anyone comes in direct contact with them.

In this era of social media enabled scoffing and watch dogs in every nook and corner, the plight of police personnel becomes even more pitiable. There is very little they can do without being blown to smithereens in conversations across the land.

As the son of late Mr JP Atray, a celebrated IPS officer of the 1963 batch who died in harness, I was able to gain insight into the ethos and functioning of the police force while I was growing up. The tension across my father’s face was palpable at times as he had to grapple with sensitive issues. He spoke less and always maintained a stoic exterior yet he was considered a warm human being. He always showered love on his family and took time for us despite his busy schedule.

While I was serving as the sub-divisional magistrate and district magistrate, I often found myself involved with law and order duties as it entailed close interactions with many uniformed colleagues, at times in stressful situations.

Both the scenarios left me convinced that the marred image of the police is not entirely fair as it is often skewed. Several police officials are extremely diligent in their duty, their life goal is to give it all to service. They toil behind scenes or in forefront of action spot, they are often not recognised or rewarded. Many a time they are vilified for no fault at all. Honest policemen are considered to be non-existent, but I beg to differ. There are many out there.

Where does the poor constable come from anyway? He comes from our society and represents the people at large. If he falls prey to corruption, then its is the society which is to be blamed. The system within which he works often deals with him harshly. Has anyone ever considered his working conditions? He may have reported for duty at 5am or he may have slept erratically on a bench at the police station with mosquitoes, noise and various smells to keep him company.

Yes, the police force often indulges goofs up! The senior and the junior officers also do some shoddy jobs. But the image of police that the people perceive is much worse than it deserves. The public relations machinery is not able to keep pace with the demands of a potential crisis ridden environment with demanding stakeholders breathing down its neck at all times.

Mr VK Kapoor, former additional DGP, Haryana, is another charming and much admired retired officer. He believes that the problem is of leadership as there is no connection between the top brass and ground-level functionaries.

Few youngsters who wish to join civil services want to become IPS officers. Yet, the image of IPS officers is manned by some of the bravest and most intelligent minds. More lady officers have also added an empathetic hue to the police canvas.

Now is the time to highlight success stories of the police. We should celebrate excellence across ranks and states. A country which takes pride in its armed forces should also be able to take pride in its police. Performance improvement and perception management are the need of the hour here.

(The author can be contacted at vivek.atray@gmail.com)