Why Isn’t the IPS Leading Organizational Transformation?

IMG_0001-0.JPGAmong the many public institutions of India, I see the police organization as the most troubled, by the rapid changes in Indian society. It is also one of the oldest Indian institutions, sharing space with the military organizations in terms of being rigidly hierarchical. It is manned by an extremely well educated set of managers in the IPS at the top of the pyramid and barely out of school constabulary at the bottom of the very wide based pyramid with graduate level educated personnel in the middle ranks.

The oft repeated question I hear is why is the elite IPS not able to make an impact on the state of policing in India. Why can’t this elite leadership modernise our police and change traditional police practices of torture of suspects and nonchalance in the investigation of complaints of ordinary people as against the extra diligence in recording FIRs and investigating even buffalo thefts of the powerful, and be sensitive to the concerns like safety of women in public spaces, despite society clearly showing its impatience and anger and sometimes disgust on the police actions on many issues. The expectations from police are of competence as well as service to the general society. Are the well educated elite in the IPS incapable of leading the police organization towards the change required? Why is this transformation so difficult?

Of course, the lack of freedom to spend money on the transformations required and the constraints on the DGP on the posting of personnel are two of the key factors. I have written on both these problems on this blog.

Recently I was visiting my training academy, the SVPNPA, Hyderabad, on a speaking assignment and for a batch reunion and I got an opportunity to interact with the trainee officers. They had these same concerns after seeing first hand in their district training, the way the department functions. One of the IPS faculty at the academy wondered if the training at NPA was lacking in some crucial ingredients as far as the basic training was concerned, to equip the trainees to face ground realities and yet make them feel the positivity that things need and can be changed. He was worried about the wide and further widening gap between the practice of policing as taught at NPA and as actually practised, which could disillusion the new entrants into feeling that police as a department, is not likely to do things differently anytime soon and therefore think it worthwhile to move on to other job opportunities.

So where does the problem lie? Traditionally police in India was a closed door organization controlling deviance within its personnel through rigorous supervision of police stations by the senior ranks, and ensuring outputs on crime management through personal supervision of crime detection by superior officers. So the focus was on the senior leadership’s personal presence to provide the leadership to fighting crime and keeping the police station working as per norms. This model is becoming ineffective due to the huge volume of work. Irrespective of police statistics, crime has burgeoned. The capacity of police stations to handle effectively the complainants and their complaints, has diminished, due to the volume of other work.

Clearly, there is need to delegate a lot of jobs currently performed by senior and mid level officers, downwards. There is need to make full use of the large constabulary and make them responsible and effective first responders in crime and complaints’ handling at the local level. There is need to carry out a training needs assessment for different ranks of personnel and make training the number one priority in the department. The results will come in a few years, but the current sense of ennui in the department can be replaced by a freshness of approach and a sense of future direction.

Another unusual area to explore for introducing change is opening the police department to research and using the results of such research to drive the change. Say, a community policing project is introduced in a city, a study of the before-after effects of the project through an academic institution, can be useful to determine if the project can be scaled up or needs to be modified or dropped altogether. Such examination can help the police and society gain continued benefits from the spending on projects. There are also many areas for research on subjects common between police and other departments like ‘Women and Child’, ‘Surface Transport’, ‘RBI’, ‘Food and Drugs’, etc, which can lead to better integrated policies for better outcomes for the society as a whole. It will also open the police department to new ideas and at the same time make their working adaptable to change requirements.

The IPS really needs to focus on methods for introducing and sustaining change within the existing constraints, if the image of police has to have a chance for a changed perception in the public mind.


8 thoughts on “Why Isn’t the IPS Leading Organizational Transformation?

  1. I feel that our solutions are going to emerge when this big leadership matrix chooses to do honest and intense introspection about state of affairs we are facing. The legitimacy and honourabiliy within the service requires restoration at the earliest. Last year, I had spoken to nandkumar about need to place relevant domain knowledge on top cop site and need for organising thought groups issuewise so that we can build our own roadmap. The possible group leaders are there for everyone to see-prakash singh,svm tripathi, nandkumar&pradnya, arvind verma, jacob punnoose,s balaji, shyni, kiran bedi, sri bhatia,sri gautam and nearly hundred others from silent majority of topcoppers. If we can not channelise our limitless power of positive thoughts, we will continue to feel miserable. The only handicaps are our lack of dedication,coherence and consensus. V K Singh IPS-up-77


  2. Pradnya’s poser has been troubling many of us for years. Are the police leaders at liberty to bring about changes they desire? What are the constraints that the leaders themselves face? Are they hamstrung by hierarchic shackles, the need to seek political nod for many things they wish to change? OR, are they passing the buck to the political leaders when there is so much each of them can initiate and achieve at individual level? Can we prepare a list of what is doable for each IPS officer at individual level on one’s own initiative, starting from the ASP at his/her first post? – S S Vaidyanathan


  3. It is neither training nor money; it is our myth of being crime fighters rather than peacekeepers. The compulsion to control crime and terror, and detect all unknown offender cases irrespective of the clues available, is primarily responsible for bulk of our unlawful activities – third degree, encounters, fabrications – and until we recognize our real role as maintaining order and peace while protecting human rights of all (including suspects and disorderly persons), we will continue on the path of noble cause corruption.


  4. The question posed and attempted to answer is a complex one, not really capable of simplistic analysis. However, I am trying to capture a few aspects of the issues involved.

    1. It is a myth that IPS is completely responsible for the performance of the Indian police. There are other stakeholders who have an impact on the track record of the police, viz the politicians (who have a vested interest in the police leadership being beholden to them), the bureaucracy (which allocates resources, which are grossly inadequate and which does not delegate adequate authority for process reengineering and HR policies), the parts of criminal justice system, viz. judiciary, prosecution, forensic labs and correctional administration (which do not function efficiently, creating a logjam of cases under trial, thus diluting the effectiveness of the investigation process), media and the Civil Society.
    2. Having discussed external factors influential in police performance, one can turn to the internal factors. There is no doubt that despite the aforesaid constraints, there is much that the police leadership could do within their sphere of influence. That they do not do it to the extent required calls for some thought.
    3. It is a fact that most IPS officers are well educated and come through a rigorous examination. However, that by itself is not adequate to be a great leadership. Aptitude, commitment and professionalism are some other qualities which are much more important. In a generalist orientation of the civil services examination, it is not certain that the best-fit candidates will land up in the IPS.
    4. The overall work culture in the IPS favours following tradition, rigid hierarchy and an emphasis on status and visible power symbols to the detriment of openness, learning attitude and acquisition of higher management skills required after first decade of service. There is also a lone wolf approach, with collaboration and continuity not on display. There is often no common vision and agreed-upon mission as the motivating factors.
    5. The problems of policing continue to become more challenging, with the need for strengthening the grass-root policing, training infrastructure, technology induction and empowerment of the rank and file through decentralised functioning.

    The IPS leadership, which includes the Officer Trainees upwards, needs to reinvent itself by infusing itself with the true Service ethos and an audacious and can-do attitude. We need to see much more innovation and risk-taking in constructive activity to be able to deliver what the country expects from us.


    1. Let this blog be developed as a platform for our thought leadership. The issues may be listed and knowledgeable ones may be encouraged to place relevant material on the portal for comments and discussions. The issuewise consensus will pave the way for us. The TC discussions are informative but lack in focus to be part of building block of a road map.


  5. Some further thoughts:

    The path to common vision and agreed-upon mission, passes through aptitude, commitment and professionalism. Currently, as things exist, we joined through a common exam, with policing as not the top choice for a majority of the candidates. Surely, not all of such officers would have the aptitude and passion for this career.

    By not allowing them an exit option and putting them a common queue throughout their career, we see preponderance of declining professional standards due to lack of incentives for knowledge upgradation and being subjected to bureaucratic and political manoeuvring for the limited roles of significance. We miss out on the energy of younger officers being given delegated, but important independent assignments. The private sector increasingly has CEOs who are in their late thirties and early forties.

    In my view, the IPS should have a large intake (250-300 officers), to provide the best quality service to the people at the cutting edge level. Only a third of this intake, who have the required aptitude, passion and strategic skills, should go to the top; the rest should be allowed liberal exit options after 12-15 years, after preparing them for alternative careers through opportunities for MBA/other professional programs from prestigious universities in India and abroad.

    This may not be the dream career for individuals as it is now, but will be a better model for the Service as whole. The current script of being born into a career of entitlement without any need for proving fitness for the job at every level is clearly not working.


    1. I agree that a larger intake and filtration processes at 10 year intervals will leave with us the best and brightest with required dedication and energy to serve the cause. The upgraded domain knowledge is another must that should be taken care of.


    2. The organisational transformation should aim at reinventing police that should be democratically accountable and should have public perception of fairness and ethical behaviour. It should follow evidence based practices and desired outcomes should reflect efficiency and effectiveness. Moreover,the organisation should try to remain nationally and internationally coherent.


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