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The unusual suspects

The outcome of Jessica Lall?s case is a product of years of neglect or indifference in just too many areas of policing, writes Kiran Bedi.

india Updated: Mar 05, 2006 01:48 IST

The outcome of Jessica Lall’s case is a product of years of neglect or indifference in just too many areas of policing. The tragedy is that each passing day, things seem to further decline. There are many reasons for this. And one primary reason is that the huge human resource that is the police force is not getting as much attention as the current challenges demand.

This is not an outsider’s view but that of an insider’s. There are undoubtedly a host of issues that do need sustained attention, come what may. I am stressing on the word ‘sustained’, because certain programmes and practices that build the future of an organisation and may not produce instant result/s to the leadership at the helm have to be sustained. I am, at this juncture, primarily focusing on the issues of human resource development. Matters that need to be taken care of are:

a) Due induction at every supervisory stage/change, since all units are intertwined in support in one form or the other.

b) Lead time for hand-over and take-over particularly where institutional memory is important (handing over of important files and documents and even resource base).

c) Refreshers as per special needs with proper systems for them.

d) Regularly walking the talk by the seniors: listening, learning, communicating, correcting, growing, amending, evolving... This to my mind has been the biggest casualty over the years.

The police leadership (barring some very good but rare exceptions) has become self-centred and insecure over the years. Such a leadership can only administer by fear. And any rewards given or taken are actually favours that have been done. This kind of a leadership cannot allow any communication lest it opens a Pandora’s box.

So how can such departments have personnel policies which lead to human development and the realisation of human potential? Basically the police departments have nil concept of HRD. As of today, I do not see this as a major concern.

Let us understand that ace investigators of serious crimes or specialists are in total short supply. They are not born overnight. They have to be regularly initiated, identified, carefully nurtured and made to go through many ‘hands-on’ experiences in a sustained manner over long periods. To begin with, they need close mentoring and over some time they need to become mentors themselves.

They need strong foundational training followed by regular in-service training, to keep the present abreast with future needs, trends, patterns, laws, processes, judgments, technology etc. Thereafter the groomed must have quality time in hand to focus on the given challenging task/s. How do you expect a SHO of a police station, who receives no induction even before he takes charge of a police station and being out-of-date with the latest in investigation issues, to do it all right? At least in the kind of high profile cases where all are watching. (He is safe in those he is not watched. He only gets caught as a TRIBE once in a while, and exposes the chinks in the system.) One who does not know how to do it right, but is given such a huge duty, has to do it wrong. Simple!

Investigation skills have been the biggest casualty in police services. Generally speaking the police department produces individuals who may be experts in nothing. Due to which wherever they are posted they try and fit in but end up marking time without making any substantial difference.

Reasons? Well, they are both personal and professional!

These being: They wish to be at places which are in the view of the department ‘sensitive’. I wonder how many really know that the police department declares some postings sensitive and some non-sensitive. “Madam, relatives and friends offer to shake hands only with SHOs and not the one who is a ‘teacher’ in the Police Training School,” said a police teacher once to me. He was one of the many rejected persons whose job was to train investigators or experts for and of the future. Who were we fooling?

If we want to delve a little more in this then let’s just look at, not audit, the training policies or police training schools, without exception. This is the root of human development which is the weakest link. And this is where the police services seriously suffer, beyond repair. This is the area where a lot needs to be learnt from our armed forces.

I wonder if there should be, at all, any police unit which is non-sensitive. For all units have a clear role. Some upfront, some supportive, some preparatory: But all are indispensable. We certainly need to re-look at our concept of sensitive and non-sensitive postings. A person who cannot be trusted in sensitive departments which involve internal security cannot be made to hang around. He needs to be directed instead to ‘stay at home till further orders’ and not be in the sensitive department where he can have access to all information or responsibilities. (Such as the security unit in the recent case of Jessica Lall).

Remember: it is the men writing the case diaries who matter considerably. Our leadership has to tell us who they are. And how things have come to such a pass. And how many more.

(The writer is Director General, Home Guards and Civil Defence.)