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The brutal rape and murder of a veterinarian in Hyderabad, police inaction and the subsequent ‘encounter’ killings of the four accused have raised disturbing questions about the way India’s police functions and the state of police education.

Both inaction and excesses indicate that the Indian police is either not sufficiently aware of what is expected of it or is confident of getting away with any misdeed.

Besides overhauling the criminal justice system to remove many procedural inconsistencies, it is high time that the Narendra Modi government and the legislature focussed on educating the police systematically. Because, unfortunately, police in India is not oriented towards a democratic and humane work ethic, according to the Status of Policing in India Report 2018 – A Study of Performance and Perceptions.

Educating the police

The recent announcement by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) about the creation of India’s first National Police University at Greater Noida should allow us to revisit the way in which the police personnel are recruited, selected and trained across the country.

Police personnel of all ranks require training at the appropriate time in their careers. They need to be engaged in a continual re-examination of their role. This cannot be achieved unless police leadership incorporates the latest concepts and practices in subjects as varied as criminology, sociology, cybersecurity, terrorism studies, criminal justice jurisprudence and organisational behaviour.

Only 6.4 per cent of police personnel in India have received any training during the last five years. Unprecedented social, cultural, legal, political, economic and technological changes within society require a host of new competencies beyond those imparted in our police training academies.

For a long time, police training was largely drill-based. However, as the complexity of the profession increased, so did the time and effort spent on training. Yet, many of the principles and practices employed in most of our police academies are reminiscent of a traditional model of police training.

Despite the fact that traditional training does a good job of developing technical and procedural skills, it can be safely argued that the linear and prescriptive nature of this model does not promote the acquisition of essential non-technical competencies such as democratic values, constitutionalism, and ethical decision making.


Also read: Low caste, loose morals – UP’s ‘rape capital’ Unnao blames its victims for sex crimes


Existing academies need work

The focus on professionalising the police in India has increased in the past decade, particularly through systematic education. However, even after the establishment of two functioning police universities — the Raksha Shakti University in Gujarat (opened during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure as the chief minister) and the Sardar Patel University of Police in Rajasthan (during the previous tenure of current chief minister Ashok Gahlot) — the concept is still evolving and continues to be surrounded by ambiguity and confusion.

The reason is not difficult to understand as there is no unanimity within the police community, including the higher leadership, that a university education is either essential for policing or such a qualification would be representative of the police community. A major reason for the lack of unanimity is a distinct division between “street cops” and “management cops”, whose different work cultures and priorities represent different ideals within the police. Although the Modi government has taken the bold initiative to start the National Police University, much needs to be done to improve the policing standards in India.

In India, the relationship between police and academia has existed mostly at the higher level of the organisation, particularly through advisory or consulting relationships with senior academics. The time has arrived to bring academia closer to the experiences of police officers at all ranks. Organised along military lines, the atmosphere in all police departments in India has been inflexibly hierarchical and extremely bureaucratic.


Also read: Stress management, ancient wisdom, yoga — what IAS, IPS officers learn at Art of Living


A cop without qualification

At present, there is no formal qualification required to become a police officer in India. Individuals wishing to obtain a degree before joining the police have no compulsion to study criminology or criminal justice or police administration; their degrees may or may not have any direct connection to policing. This would need to change with the introduction of ‘pre-service’ degrees for a police aspirant, irrespective of the rank. Similarly, sustainable partnerships will need to be created between the upcoming National Police University and all state-level police universities so that university-based police education is promoted in the country.

Framing a degree education model suited to policing must answer how much and what kind of education the police need, how it should be at different ranks, and to what extent degree education and professional training should be integrated or separate. A Central Police Education Commission, which can help the central and state police universities in framing the right curricula, can be created.

Following are some of the courses that could be anticipated in a model police degree programme — domestic crime; crimes against women, specifically rape; hate crimes and mob lynching; juvenile crimes; religious radicalisation and communalism; crimes against children; road safety; robbery and theft; cybercrime and fraud; and medical emergencies.

Global practices on police education

The idea of an educational institution dedicated entirely to education and research on policing is relatively new and evolving. Police training and police education are entirely separate in the US, with professional or occupational training being conducted in police academies, while higher education is provided by mainstream colleges and universities. Criminal justice has been the preferred field of study for individuals pursuing higher education related to policing. Despite the fact that not many police agencies require higher police education, around 40 per cent of police professionals possess a four-year specialised college degree.

In England, police education is mainly rooted in criminology. Germany is among those countries where higher education can be pursued specifically in policing or police studies. In Norway, practical police training and higher education are included in a single programme. However, police training and education are separate in New Zealand.


Also read: Lawyer-Delhi Police row: is it tough to empathise with cops due to their poor image?


Why education matters

There are strong reasons for raising educational requirements for an individual aspiring to be into the police force. Strong reading habit is an occupational necessity for police due to their regular interaction with the judicial system and the media. And if nothing else, police personnel must keep up with the average educational level of the general population, which has been continuously rising.

Moreover, most of the state police consist of lower ranks, known as constables. They are mostly recruited from rural areas and small towns. It becomes imperative for the government to organise special education sessions for all the police force on gender issues.

A democratic India requires the presence of a police force, which constantly works to learn new techniques, respect human dignity, and bind itself irrevocably to the rule of law. A systematic study of policing through academic institutions is the first step in that direction.

The author is an Assistant Professor and Coordinator, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Sardar Patel University of Police, Security and Criminal Justice. Views are personal.

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