Why Police Is Failing To Win Public Trust
THE Goa police is in the news for three cases of alleged assault of ‘citizens’. The Goa Human Right Commission has taken serious note of the incidents and issued notices to the police top brass. Three football fans – Lester De Souza, Tina De Souza and Seby De Souza – were beaten up by Fatorda policemen in retaliation of their assault of policemen on duty a few days ago. In another instance, five policemen were charged with the offence of having beaten up a seafarer from Betul, Clint Rebello just because he questioned why he was stopped by the police while driving. In yet another case Kapil Satelkar has alleged that he was beaten up and dragged by policemen in Pernem. The three cases of police violence would have gone unreported had the victims not summoned courage to lodge a complaint against their alleged assailants in uniform. There were further allegations of their complaints not being given the urgent and serious attention they deserved as the police were reluctant to act against their own men.
Though cases of police violence against citizens or suspects are much fewer in Goa than in most states, they are nevertheless a matter of serious concern. There are cases where the victims (some of whom totally innocent) have chosen not to seek action against the policemen, fearing more troubles. Perhaps the victims’ silence has made the state policemen continue with their high-handedness and violence. It is hard to believe that such lawless behaviour of their subordinates was never brought to the notice of the seniors in the police force. Or was it the case that they were informed of the incidents but they chose to ignore them? The reality is that the culture of violence has spread among the state‘s policemen, which is a matter of serious concern. This culture of violence had made an obscene show in the indiscriminate assault on mining dependents some months ago during their protest near the Kadamba bus stand.
The policemen deal with law breakers and angry citizens every day. Some might say harsh words against them; others might not heed their warnings. Despite all sorts of provocation, the policemen have to maintain restraint, for they are enforcers of law. If they do not respect the rule of law they will cease to have a right to make others respect it. Their fundamental duty is to serve people, protect their lives and property. They have to protect the innocent from deception, the weak from oppression and intimidation, the peaceful from violence. They are trained to deal humanly even with the lawbreakers. They are not supposed to behave the way anti-social elements do. The three recent cases of police violence could have been avoided if the policemen had maintained restraint. The unrestrained acts of a few have brought disrepute to the entire police force.
Reckless violence by a few policemen damage the efforts the police have been making to establish a good relationship with society. Police officials hold meeting with citizen groups and communities to build confidence that that the police were there to help them. They keep on saying they want to win the trust of the people in the police. However, such interactions alone are not enough to win over public trust. The police top brass must act strongly against their men who do not follow the rule of law in order to win public confidence. The common perception among people is that the police play mute spectators or arrive late when their help is sought in cases of assault or other crime.
Director General of Police Muktesh Chander has attributed the cases of police violence to lack of proper training. He says he is going to organise ‘orientation’ programmes to help policemen change their behaviour. We wonder what kind of training the police bosses have been giving their subordinates all these years. The police have a code of conduct they have not been following. The police bosses have been speaking of public outreach, special care of the elderly and the other weaker sections of society. But nothing of that shows in the behaviour of their subordinates. The virtues every policeman is supposed to possess – decency, compassion, justice, fairness, empathy, quick response – are found missing in most of them. There is a long way to go for the police to gain the trust of the people. With the wild acts of a few policemen, such as the ones that have recently brought the state police in news, the way can be infinitely longer.