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Red Lines


Recently, an elderly person complained to the police control room in Doon about noisy and drunken celebrations near his home late in the night. The police reached the spot within minutes and silenced the revelers. Immediately after the police left, the drumbeats resumed, even louder than before! The police were summoned again, with just as little effect. They came yet again and little is known of what resulted because by then the complainant had resorted to a sleeping pill!
Why does the police command such little respect among the general public, leave alone those in positions of power? How much of its energy is wasted in ‘repeat’ performances – trying to calm down noisy party-goers when it should be involved in the more serious job of preventing serious crime? This is particularly harmful because, as it is, there are too few policemen per million people in the country going by the standards established by the UN, and even fewer as compared to the developed countries. If society cannot afford to employ more cops, should it not, at least, provide as much cooperation as it can so that the force can be used cost-effectively?
Much of the responsibility for encouraging law-abiding behaviour lies with the police. It not only ought to be trained and led well in accordance with the latest developments in policing techniques, but also ought to understand the psychology of commanding respect. The most successful police forces in the world are those that maintain predictable responses and conduct themselves in accordance with a clearly laid down code. Going by popular perceptions in India, the police force is held in utmost contempt for its corruption, disregard for human rights and lack of character. Motivation at the individual level is sorely lacking simply because there is no genuine system of incentives in place for good work. Unlike private corporations, good performers cannot be ‘fast-tracked’ on the way to higher responsibility. At the senior level, cops are too much in cohorts with politicians and money-bags to be effective at their jobs.
Those officers who wish to make a difference ought to take inspiration from the AAP ‘revolution’ in Delhi. It has come about through the high level of motivation among its cadre. If the leaders inspire through right attitude and behaviour, their followers perform beyond the call of duty. Above all, success itself is the biggest incentive. Cops that earn the respect of the common man do not like to lose it and make all the sacrifices necessary to retain it.
Based on its resources, the police should determine its ‘red-lines’, upgrading them once the initial targets are met. These red-lines should make clear what will not be tolerated under any circumstances. The police force in Doon, for instance, should determine what behaviour constitutes its biggest headaches and clamp down hard on it. The fact that road mishaps, particularly involving speeding bikes, are the biggest killers in Doon – not wearing helmets, speeding and other forms of rash driving should serve as a red-rag even to the lowest ranked cop. If the youth become habituated to following the law in this area, they will be less inclined to break it in others. Other such priorities ought also to be identified, with unwavering enforcement of penalties. It will not require three visits then just to break up a crowd of noisy drunks!