Us Cops A BREAK!
By Maxwell Pereira
The papers have been full of a recent survey conducted by an Image
Management Agency on the average citizen's perception of the Delhi
Police. This isn't the first one. Opinion polls on the Delhi Police
have been conducted earlier, focusing on both the positive and
negative aspects of the force. And being a services agency, the
police, ever the favourite whipping boy of the community, has
been at the receiving end - invariably notching up the largest
But one pertinent question regarding such polls needs to be asked:
How accurate are they? In the latest one, 250 randomly selected
citizens have been interviewed. To what extent the interviewed
persons represent the citizenry would, to a great extent, determine
the accuracy of the opinions analysed.
Talking of opinion polls, I recall the one commissioned by a leading
daily around this time last year, the results of which were splashed
across the front page. A startling revelation was made - a majority
of the people considered the law-and-order situation in the city
as being in the doldrums, even collapsed. The report added that
a tremendous sense of insecurity had crept into society and that
people had lost faith in the law enforcement machinery.
The news item carrying this opinion poll was thrown in my face
at engagement after engagement wherever I was called to speak
or interact with people, be it the Rotary Clubs or other Institutions
of thinking people. I asked them to ponder a while and think.
I asked them whether people really apply their mind to such issues
before answering questions posed to them in a random survey? If
at all someone had actually applied their mind, would they have
given such seemingly flippant answers as have determined the results
in the opinion poll?
The 'tandoor murder' case scenario is not difficult to picture.
Someone is asked: "Did you hear of the tandoor murder?"
The string of responses is predictable: "Oh! What a terrible
act! What in heaven has happened to the system? How do these kind
of things happen? How terrible, indeed, has the law and order
situation in the city become!" There, you have your conclusion.
Did the 'tandoor' case actually instill a sense of insecurity
among the people? Or, on the contrary, should this case have instilled
a sense of confidence in the minds of the people in their own
law enforcing agency? Was it not a fact that in this case it was
the system that rose to the occasion through a functionary in
the lowest rung of the department, to prevent the non-detection
of a heinous and gruesome crime?
Was it not the initiative of this lone constable - not specially
selected, but who happened to be on the spot witnessing an incident
- that led him to preserve and detect something unusual, something
out of the ordinary? And wasn't it this act of his which proved
that the system and the department is quite sound and works well?
Tell me. Should this have instilled further confidence in the
minds of the people about their own law enforcing agency? Or should
this have spread a sense of fear? A moment of clear thinking will
give the answer.
Then I often wonder how come an opinion poll gets commissioned
each time there is some adverse publicity leveled at the law enforcing
agency. There was this other opinion poll commissioned immediately
after the arrest of an Additional SHO and his compatriots in a
robbery case looting passengers departing from Palam airport.
No one condones the criminal act of a policeman. But then, while
the criminal act of the policeman got highlighted, no one praised
the prompt action and intervention by the PCR staff who apprehended
the miscreants. It was policemen who reacted correctly and nabbed
the culprits were colleagues. Against common perception, one would
say! Isn't it common place for people to say offhand that a criminal
act by a policeman goes unpunished. Of course.
But coming back to the point, why is it that opinion polls are
commissioned whenever there is some publicity about an adverse
act by a member of the force? Is it to further influence the people
with the adverse prejudice fresh in their minds?
The Centre for Image Management Studies, in the present case,
needs to be complemented on its latest survey, even though the
result has shown a picture which is far from rosy. But to conclude
that the involvement of the citizens with their police is low
merely from the fact that 58 percent of them do not know even
the telephone number of their local police station is questionable.
Why should an ordinary citizen know the telephone number of his
police station offhand? Unless, of course, there is in his mind
the constant fear of getting into some scrape, or wanting police
intervention. In my opinion, the fact that majority of the people
(58 per cent) are able to live in the city without feeling the
need to know the police station telephone number should in itself
be a positive reflection on the law and order situation in the
city. And conversely, that 42 per cent do know the telephone number
could also be read as a high involvement of the people with the
local police station - if, of course, one were to use the language
of the pollster.
Eighty per cent of people interviewed are supposed to have said
they would not report a crime. Does anyone know why? Is it because
of the lack of response on the part of the police, or is it because
of lack of confidence in the entire criminal justice system? Has
anyone made a survey of how many people want to go to court and
analysed whether this is a major factor that keeps people from
getting involved in any way at all with the cops.
Thank God, there is a positive result shown through the survey
which is that most of the respondents believe in the secular credentials
of the Delhi Police. Caste, creed or religion do not play any
role in the resolution of a law and order problem in Delhi. Thanks
to the cosmopolitan nature of the force and the recruitment policies
of Delhi Police that ensure representation from every corner of
the country, this has been a hard won reputation. What is more
positive, in my mind, is the silver lining that skirts the dark
cloud. The small but significant number (9.4 per cent) of people
who find there is "nothing wrong" with the Delhi Police.
And believe me, it is this trust that the Delhi Police need to
hold on to, to build on, and hope that the likes of these people
grow. For this, it would be the endeavour of the Delhi Police
to shed the image of an average policeman being a bully and having
criminal nexus. For the purpose, the effort has been to bring
about more accountability at all levels, and more transparency
in the functioning of Delhi Police.
A final word about these opinion polls. One needs to guard against
further erosion of the confidence of the people in the one agency
to which they need to turn to in times of need. God forbid the
day when the cumulative effect of the negative publicity results
in the society rejecting the system, getting cynical enough to
question the rule of law, and brings in anarchy. To prevent this,
perhaps it would also be a good idea for those commissioning such
polls to frame questions that also bring out the positive aspects
in the functioning of the police, alongside the negative ones
that need remedy.
words: dated 24.08.2004.
Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002.
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