Police : A friend or a foe ?

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh *

 Independence Day celebration at CM Bungalow and 1st MR Parade Ground, Imphal :: August 15th 2019
Independence Day celebration at 1st MR Parade Ground, Imphal on August 15th 2019 :: Pix - DIPR

Community policing or community-oriented policing is a strategy of policing that focus on building ties and working closely with members of communities. In fact, community policing is philosophy of full service personalized policing, where the same officers patrols and works in the same area on a permanent basis from a decentralized place, working in a proactive partnership with citizens to identify and solve problems.

The central goal of community policing is for the police to build relationship with the community through interactions with local agencies and members of public, creating partnership and strategies for reducing crime and disorder. Although community policing mostly targets low-level crime and disorder “the broken window theory” proposes that this can reduce more serious crime as well.

Community policing is related to problem-oriented policing and intelligence-led policing and contrast with reactive policing strategies which were predominant in the late 20th century. It does not eliminate the need for reactive policing, although successful prevention can reduce the need for the latter.

Many police forces have teams that focus specifically on community policing, such as Neighborhood policing Teams in the United Kingdom which are separate from the more centralized units that responds to emergencies. The overall assessment of community –oriented policing is positive, as both officers and community members attest to its effectiveness in reducing crime and raising the sense of security in community.

Police are a constituted body of persons empowered by a state to enforce the law, to protect the lives, liberty and possessions of citizens and to prevent crime and civil disorder. Their power include the power of arrest and legitimized use of force.

The term is most commonly associated with the police forces of a sovereign state that are authorized to exercise the police power of that state within a defined legal or territorial area of responsibility, police force are often defined as being separate from military and other organizations involved in the defense of the state against foreign aggressors, however gendarmerie are military unit charged with civil policing.

Police force are usually public sector services funded through taxes. Law enforcement is only part of policing activity. Policing has included an array of activities in different situations but the predominant ones are concerned with preservation of order. In some societies, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, these developed within the context of maintaining class system and Protection of private property. These activities are the friendly nature of police.

Police forces have become ubiquitous in modern societies. Nevertheless their role can be controversial, as some are involved to varying degrees in corruption, police brutality and enforcement of authoritarian rule. Police corruption is a form of police misconduct in which law enforcement officers end up breaking their political contract and abuse their power for personal gain.

This type of corruption may involve one or group of officers. Internal police corruption is a Challenge to public trust, cohesion of departmental policies, human rights violations involving serious consequences. Police corruption can take many forms such as bribery. Soliciting or accepting bribes in exchange for not reporting organized drug or prostitution rings or other illegal activities and violation of law, county and city ordinances and state as well as federal laws.

Bribes may also include leasing unlawful access to proprietary law enforcement database and system. Flouting the police code of conduct in order to secure conviction civilians and suspects- for example, through the use of falsified evidence. There are also situations where law enforcement officers may deliberately and systematically participate in organized crimes themselves.

In most major cities there are internal affairs sections to investigate suspected police corruption or misconduct including selective enforcement but there are situations where internal affairs also hides departmental and individual corruption, fraud, abuse and waste by individual officers, groups of officers or even unwritten departmental policies.

There are also police commissions who are complicit in the same cover-up, often to hide internal and departmental problems both from public view and also from interdepartmental reviews and investigations. Certain officers can be fired then rehired by petition after they accrue enough signatures, often from the very criminals and violations from whom corrupt officers have garnered previous favor in exchange for officers “ turning a blind eye” resulting in selective enforcement of violations being deterred but actually promoted.

When police officers receive free drinks, meals and other gratuities, because they are police officers, whether intentionally or unintentionally, they convey an image of corruption. Demanding or receiving payment for criminal offenses to overlook a crime or a possible future crime. Types of bribery are protection for illegal activities, ticket fixing, altering testimonies destroying evidences and selling criminal information.

Bribery is one of the most common act of corruption. Theft and burglary is when an officer or department steals from an arrest and crime victims or corpse. Examples are taking drugs for personal use in a drug bust and taking personal objects from a corpse at the scene of crime. A theft can also occur within a department. An officer can steal property from the department’s evidence room or property room for personal use.

Shakedown is what when a police officer is aware of a crime and the violator but accepts a bribe for not arresting the violator. Fixing is undermining criminal prosecution by withholding evidences or failing to appear at judicial hearings, for bribery or as a personal favor. Besides these police also involved in perjury, direct criminal activities, internal payoffs, the frame-up and ticket fixing etc.

Police brutality is one of several form of police misconduct which involves undue violence by police members. Widespread police brutality exists in many countries and territories even those that prosecute it. Although illegal, it can be performed under the color of law.

Police misconduct refers to inappropriate conduct and or illegal actions taken by police officers in connection with their official duties. Police misconduct can lead to a miscarriage of justice and sometimes involves discrimination and or illegal motives of segregation combined as obstruction of justice.

In an effort to control police misconduct, there is an accelerating trend for civilian agencies to go beyond review to engage directly investigations and to have much greater input into disciplinary decisions. Using evolutionary psychology as a society’s base will result in the public being the enemies of the state. In addition individuals and groups are now filming police in an effort to force police to become accountable for their actions and for their inactions.

With the proliferation of mobile devices capable of recording alleged misconduct, police misconduct and abuse is now receiving publicity on social media and on websites including You Tube. In response, police often try to intimidate citizens to prevent them from using cameras. In other circumstances, police will illegally seize or delete evidences recorded by citizens, notwithstanding laws that make it a crime to destroy evidence of a crime being committed irrespective of whether the crime is committed by civilians or by the police.

The type’s misconduct includes coerced false confession, intimidation, false arrest, false imprisonment, falsification of evidence, spoliation of evidence, police perjury, witness tampering, and police brutality, police corruption, racial profiling, unwanted surveillance, unwarranted search and unwarranted seizure of property.

Other misconduct are: bribing or lobbying legislatures to pass or maintain laws that give police excessive power or status. Similarly bribing or lobbying city council members to pass or maintain municipal laws that make victim-less acts tickattable so as to get more money. Selective enforcement, sexual misconduct, off duty misconduct, killing of dogs unjustly.

Notable case corruption, where the officers believes the good outcome justify bad behavior. Using badge or ID to gain entry into concerts to get discount, influence of drugs or alcohol while on duty. Violation by officers of police procedural policies.

Police officers often show a “blue code of silence” which means that they do not turn each other in for misconduct. While some officers have called this code a myth, a 2000 survey found evidence that it exists.

A 2019 study in the journal “Nature” found that misconduct by one police officer substantially increased the likelihood that peer officers would also engage in misconduct. Misconduct has been shown to be related to personality and correlated to education but it can also be significantly affected by culture of the police agency.

Education is negatively correlated to misconduct, with better –educated officers receiving fewer complaints on average. It is believed, corruption among the Indian police service is pervasive and goes up to the top brass. Reform has been made difficult with honest officers pressured by powerful local officers, politicians and suffer punitive transfer and threats while corrupt officers receive promotions.

Notable amongst many is transfer of Kiran Bedi for giving a parking ticket to the Prime Minister’s car. A number officers face charges in CBI cases and disciplinary proceedings but it is alleged that no notable action under the penal provisions is taken. Some of the past scandals include murder, sexual harassment, sex-on tape scandal, dowry harassment, fraud and fake killing encounters.

In such a situation how general public can have trust on police? That’s why people have strong apathy on police thinking that police are our enemy rather than a friend.

To establish the trust deficit of police among general public, it’s high time to change the attitudes of police by parting away from the corruption and misconduct they do so that general public may have a strong confidence to police at the time of their misery. This only will bring peace and harmonies for a better co-existence in our society.

* Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer is a Faculty at NIELIT Imphal and can be reached at sjugeshwor7(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on August 23, 2019.

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