Goodbye to Formula based Policing

When I joined the police service I was required to call-on the police top brass and introduce myself to the organisation that was to be my bread and butter in the decades to follow. The ceremonial call-on included a five-minute chit chat over the ritualistic cup of tea. The senior colleagues would invariably give some words of advice as to how one could become a successful police officer. Each officer, especially the stalwarts, had his own ‘pet formula’ for tackling policing issues and problems. The formula was supposed to see you through most if not all ticklish issues and keep you out of harms’ way.

‘Crack-down on petty crimes to scare away the bigger criminals’, was one such formula. Thus one was advised to crack the whip on bootlegers, gamblers and pimps so as to create a general scare in the ranks of criminals who were then expected to flee the area of the ‘tough police chief’.
‘Kick Ass – the district can afford only one badmash, and I am it. ‘ Let all and sundry live in your terror- kuchh galat kiya nahin aur yeh humein kha jayega. People are so afraid of being chewed up by the goonda-in-uniform that they forget all notions of committing crime. Thrashing of the goons in public view, use of maximum force at the time of arrest including shootouts, occasional lathi charge are all included in the formula. Rules and procedures are for the babus and the timid and have no use in this man’s job.
‘Manage the Media’ and everything shall be fine. Nobody shall read your crime reports or your crime statistics. The police top brass anyway administers through media reports. The media should portray you as the saviour of peace and the founder of ‘Ram-Rajya’. Have frequent press conferences followed by high tea. Give stories with colourful pictures to media like chit-chat sessions with Resident Welfare Associations, launch functions of ‘Senior Citizen Schemes’, ‘Neighbourhood Watch Schemes’ and what have you, flagging off ceremony of ‘Run against Drugs’ etc etc.
‘Manage your Boss’. In police only your boss matters. Do as he says and you shall be fine. Others would advise- Manage your Super Boss. The political masters should be pleased and nothing else matters.
‘Follow-the-Law by the Letter if not the Spirit’. Don’t take unnecessary risks under mistaken notions of being a dispenser of justice. Follow the rules. If it leads to increased crime rate, don’t bother. Let the law makers change the law and empower you further if they are bothered about curbing crime. If you exceed your laid down powers in combatting crime and there is trouble, nobody shall bail you out. So remember that you are a simple cog-in-the-wheel cop and no super cop, whatever that may be.
Unfortunately, the increasing complexity of the society and the resultant challenges for policing no longer afford one the luxury of sticking to any one formula/ secret-of-success. Thus, the cop creating terror in the badmash element is caught publicly thrashing goondas on tape in a so-called sting-operation. He spends the rest of his career filing replies to the myriad commissions and the Courts. The Stickler for rules is transferred out for non-performance and is ridiculed for being a sissy. The media manager’s peace is suddenly rocked by some hard-core sensational crime and he gets his goose-cooked by the top brass and his media friends alike. One blindly follows one’s boss only to realize that when trouble starts he is going to be the first one to pull you up for not showing sufficient initiative. Thus, no formula works across situations. Today, one has to be a little of everything, as per situation. Sometimes tough, taking risks. Sometimes cautious and even downright timid in tricky situations. Following orders but always covering your back. Media friendly, to a point. In fact, most hapless field officers seeking directions in crisis situations are routinely instructed by their seniors to take action ‘as per situation’!!