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Maharashtra cops are boosting mental health, becoming more professional, what’s their secret?

The ‘Emotional Intelligence Training Programme’ helps police recognise and manage emotions and avoid miscommunication and stress

mumbai Updated: Aug 16, 2017 11:55 IST
Debasish Panigrahi
Debasish Panigrahi
Hindustan Times
Emotional Intelligence Training Programme,Mumbai,Mumbai police
The training helps police officers realise their behavioural and psychological traits and those of the people they must deal with. (HT File)

In the past eight months, the MIDC police station at Nagpur has become less noisy. Officers and constables diligently attend to complaints, occasionally offering agitated people a glass of water or a cup of tea to calm them down.

It wasn’t always like this. Like at other police stations, furious rows between complainants and policemen would echo here too. Occasional instances would end up before the human rights commission, to the embarrassment of senior officers.

“For several months now, no one from here has been pulled up by the HRC or the courts,” said inspector Sunil Mahadik, station-in-charge.

What’s behind this newfound change? Expertise Mahadik and his men acquired during a new training regime called the ‘Emotional Intelligence Training Programme (EITP)’. Though they were inducted into the force decades ago, they had never undergone such training.

“Earlier, we believed in the age-old maxim: fear begets fear. That used to be the norm for policing,” said Mahadik. He added that the EITP helped him and his men reinvent themselves to face the challenges of new-age policing. “Policemen can’t afford to be brash anymore. People want public service officials to be professional,” he said.

Mahadik and his men are among the 400 officers and 6,000-plus constables from Maharashtra who have been part of the EITP.

The programme has been an integral part of corporate training and is used to help top executives develop interpersonal and managerial skills. However, such training for junior policemen was unheard of till senior IPS officer K Venkatesham introduced the idea a year ago, when he was heading police training facilities in the state.

“I realised the importance of such training when I signed up for the programme at the Hyderabad academy a few years ago,” Venkatesham said.

He approached the Indian School of Business (ISB) and leading HR agency, Par Excellence, which conducts a capsule refresher EITP course for senior IPS officers at the Hyderabad academy. “Experts from these facilities were brought in and asked to device a separate module in Marathi,” said Venkatesham, currently posted as the Nagpur police commissioner.

A support team was set up to help them conduct a statewide survey of police so they could understand the nuances of policing and devise a course accordingly, said S Jagannathan, additional director general of police, training.

Mahadik said the course not only helped him recognise and manage his emotions, but also helped him avoid miscommunication and stress.

“As part of our training, we analysed cases in which the police handled situations poorly. We found that those problems could have been avoided if we had acted more professional,” he said.

He said that earlier, when a drunk person asked them to file a complaint, they would not take him seriously owing to his intoxicated state. The person would then start shouting, aggravating officers, who would then resort to force to calm him down. This would sometimes backfire as the injured man would complain.

Now, the EITP has taught officers how to handle such situations. “We now listen to such people patiently and try to resolve their problems,” he said.

Deputy superintendent of police Gajanan Rajmane said the training has helped him cope with stress and work-related problems at the Malegaon division, traditionally a volatile law-and-order pocket in the state. “As a senior officer, I not only have to manage hundreds of staff, but tend to the general public daily,” said Rajmane, a veteran of seven years. “Earlier, work pressure would irritate me and I would get provoked by small issues. After the training, I can feel a change within,” said Rajmane. He has trained more than 400 of his men.

Jagannathan said he plans to expand the scope of this training to the state’s five police ranges, which have 60,000-plus men and officers, in the next six months. “Before this, we will conduct an assessment survey to see how effective the programme has been and plug any loopholes,” he said.

‘Emotional stability translates into clarity of thoughts, overall performance’

S Jagannathan, additional director general, training, tells HT about the emotional intelligence training programme and why it is important.

Could you tell us about the emotional intelligence training programme (EITP)?

The training helps police officers realise their behavioural and psychological traits and those of the people they must deal with. It has been established in the corporate sector that a manager’s success is dependent on his intelligence quotient as well as his emotional quotient.

How far is a corporate experiment applicable to policing?

It is equally, or even more applicable to policemen. An officer or constable is often approached by people in distress. They expect the police to treat them humanely and resolve their problems efficiently. In such situations, mere enforcement of law is not enough. It is also important to fulfil the complainant’s expectations. The officer should not only keep his emotions in check, he should also be able to understand the complainant’s mental state. Emotional stability translates into clarity of thoughts and overall performance.

How and when did you decide to train your men?

Senior IPS officers have been signing up for the programme at the Hyderabad police academy for years. However, junior state service officers did not have such an option. A year ago, senior IPS officer K Venkatesham, now commissioner of Nagpur police, proposed such an initiative when he was heading police training in the state. We invited experts from the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, as well as renowned HR agency, Par Excellence, to devise this course. We told them of our requirements and conducted a field study across police stations in the state before the course was designed.

What does the course entail?

The programme helps officers understand emotional intelligence. It comprises an assessment of their behavioural and psychological traits and an understanding of law. It also takes into account the psychology of complainants. As many as 53 officials from the 10 police training schools and the police academy at Nashik were given a five-day training. Once they learnt the ropes, they were certified. They then conducted the programme at their respective institutes, for newcomers, and at mobile training programmes for veterans. The programme was introduced at the schools and at the Nashik academy as part of the curriculum. It was included in the basic training syllabus for the constabulary. It takes one week, comprising 13 sessions, to train officers.

How many officers and constables have been trained so far?

About 6,000 constables and 400 officers have been trained. A range-wise programme is in the pipeline to train at least five officers from each district.

I almost suffered a nervous breakdown, says rejuvenated constable

Barely six months after her posting, Mukta Eknath Katkade, 26, a constable at Aurangabad (rural), was planning to quit the force.

As mother to a six-year-old girl, she was finding it difficult to strike a balance between her duty and family responsibilities. I almost suffered a nervous breakdown,” said Mukta who joined the Maharashtra police in 2016. “I left a private sector job to join the force, little knowing what lay ahead,” she added.

“My first posting was gruelling. Long and erratic hours took a heavy toll on my body and mind. I started neglecting my family. “I was devastated as I neither had time for my husband, who works at a private firm, nor my daughter,” Mukta said.

She was constantly irritated and felt depressed frequently. “I would lose temper without any provocation and start quarreling at work. Things were no better at home,” she said.

Just as she was thinking of quitting, she heard about the EITP. “I volunteered immediately and was trained at Nagpur,” she said.

She said she can now stay peaceful at work and at home. “Now, I know how to keep stress under control, even though the pressure is constant. I am no longer in a constant state of anger. I can now communicate with my colleagues, superiors and even complainants much better,” she said.

Though her husband is still getting used to her changed personality, her daughter is much happier, she said.

First Published: Aug 16, 2017 11:44 IST