Recently I got to read an interesting article, http://www.collaborativefund.com/blog/newcomers/. It argues that employee attitude to innovative thinking and problem solving is dependent on the high or low ‘reference point’ that organisations set for judging employee performance. And that this reference point must be nimbly changed in different situations to indicate what is encouraged and what is not. I found this argument to be very applicable in police organisations.
Police face the ‘new and unfamiliar’ more often than most other departments in government. However, like other govt departments, the reference point for decision making in the police organisation is set at ‘low’, and innovative thinking for problem solving is not brought to the table by decision makers – from police station-in-charge to the senior management.
We see the everyday social transitional dilemmas like the unequal status of women, children, castes, religions and the economically deprived, reaching the police station in more and more numbers, as crimes against women and children and civil and human rights abuses, when the law requires that all citizens irrespective of gender, caste or community be treated by society with equality and respect.
The rapid urbanisation through migration and infrastructure development currently in progress across the country, though good in itself for bettering the economic lives and reducing social stratification much prevalent in rural india, has its visible negative fallout in the rising crime and the chaotic traffic. Police, with their current manpower ( India has 152 policemen per 100000 population as against the target of 222/lac people, and this number 152 includes the armed police who are unavailable for the day to day policing of police stations, therefore the actual availability of policemen serving 100000 people on a day to day basis must be much lower) cannot effectively handle this. One therefore sees the huge effort made by the police departments across the country to be able to just about keep a semblance of control over these problems.
The solution cannot lie only in increasing the numbers. The department has to train this manpower in law and public order management and inculcate the public service ethics into this new and old manpower. Also, it is no more enough to merely train them in the laws and procedures. What is needed is a professional policeman even at the police station level, who has a mindset of solving problems and not merely a ‘tiding over the present situation’ approach.
To improve on this mindset quality, which will be more and more required in the police department, I see a big role for the training institutions within the police. Currently, there is no training for developing the problem solving, creative mindsets in trainees. There could be ‘class discussion’ type sessions taking up actual problems, like the ones described above, faced by the police across the country and short term, medium term and long term strategies can be discussed for minimising the size of the problems. Police stations could be asked to send their problematic concerns, especially their major crime challenges, to training institutions. All levels of trainees, from the police constable to the IPS officers, can be trained on such modules, and their performance on this subject could be given a significant influence on their overall grades.
Focusing on developing the right mindsets through training will result in a truly professional, decentralised and yet disciplined police organisation – where the boots on the ground will have acquired the ability to reduce and solve some problems, and also suggest practise-based solutions for long term resolution of issues, rather than merely manage them temporarily.
This is a skill which will serve not only the police while they handle crime and public disorder issues, but it will also function as a feedback to government for its policy making. The final purpose being to ensure a strife-less transition on various facets of our society.