In an era of instant multimedia communication and the unwitting transparency of our performance that follows, it is not possible to keep the relevance of old structures just because they have traditionally been there. The IPS, like it’s sister service, IAS, is slowly feeling this discomfort.
In recent times, the Railway Protection Force and the Central Police Forces have been vocal about the changes in their role or the management structure that they feel they need. These organisations were nurtured from their inception by the IPS. Over the years, separate subordinate cadres of officials were recruited to these organisations. These cadres have by now matured to their specialization over the last many decades. It may be time for the IPS as the parent service to hand over the overall management of these organisations to them. However, ways should be devised to see if the same input quality of manpower can be recruited for the senior management cadre in these organisations as is done by the recruitment of IPS officers for the state police.
However, besides the issue of rational thinking on deputation of IPS officers to man the Central Police forces, a more serious thought needs to be given to making IPS more effective and useful in the policing of states. IPS officers are recruited to be assigned to various states as the senior management cadre of the state police where they serve from posts like District Superintendents of Police, to Commissioners of Police in large cities, to the top most post of Director General of Police. As I had mentioned in one of my earlier blogposts, people recruited into the IPS are highly qualified academically and come through an extremely competitive recruitment process. Yet the performance of state police on delivering the public good of safety and security is not best in class. The people are still waiting for the brilliant big ideas for transformative leadership from the IPS. So where should we focus?
Accountability structure in the police: The public facing police units, the police stations, and their immediate supervisors, the District Superintendents of Police, face public and political accountability on their performance in maintaining public order. The second level accountability is towards keeping crime numbers low. Accordingly, their entire effort is focused on political influencers who could disturb the peace of the area and secondly to keep in check any rising FIR numbers. Neither of these priorities do much for an unbiased, fair, fearless and people friendly police image.
Incentive structure: The current incentive structure is based on ‘ managing’ both the above accountability situations. If however the incentive structure is changed to obtaining performance in desired objectives – like better crime work in the form of improving detection rates of various classes of crime, quick completion of investigations and their submission to the court, reducing corruption by use of budgeted government funds in crime work or crime prevention work, improving the involvement of the constabulary in rendering good policing to the people, then there is a good chance of enhancing peoples’ trust in its police.
As an experiment towards this idea, we in Maharashtra Police, have instituted from 2019, rolling trophies for the best district/ commissionerate who uses its budget and welfare funds towards these objectives. The first such recipients were awarded these trophies by the Head of the State Police Force at a conference of officers. Detailed ranking systems were worked out to ensure reasonably logical quantitative assessments of performance of all district police and commissionerates. Hopefully the race has now begun for better achievements in our performance so that the people of Maharashtra could experience better policing year on year – even if this happens in small increments.
I think it’s time for the big ideas from behavioural science and economics to be transplanted on policing. Competition as a principle for causing betterment in performance, and creation of incentives for moving towards the desired changes, are very much possible despite other constraints police face in the existing in the governance structure.