Saumya Roy, IPS, SP, Howrah (Rural), talks about how policing has changed over the years from people staying away from police stations earlier to taking part in resolving confrontations and providing valuable information about related issues to community policing taking the centre stage along with social media witnessing overwhelming response of the masses, strengthening the bond between citizens and cops for societal betterment. Excerpts:
Q: As a young member of this huge police family, how do you interpret your profession?
A: Policing still remains a matter of great pride and honour amongst many. The training starts from a very early stage as soon as one completes education and qualifies for PSC (Public Service Commission), embarking on the journey of becoming a cop. Usually, training is imparted after three months of completing education. All the other components are assigned, such as cadre selections and districts after the training is imparted. It is the period of training which changes a person inside out. There is a huge physical and mental transformation that a person undergoes right from his/her student life to enter this profession. Thus, after the training period is complete, they then step into the realm of reality in which the district and their people are assigned to them. Certain aspects like training in CRPC and ICC are given during the academic days, but policing involves a lot more and a major part of it involves rational stakeholder management. This is because working in the field requires a lot of balance since there can be numerous stakeholders present around us, right from doctors to common people to politicians, engineers and many others. It must be remembered that everyone has their own perspective and needs and unless we understand each of them and interact mutually, it gets impossible to satisfy everyone and handle a situation. Stakeholder management should always be given more emphasis during police training because of just one reason: to understand what stakes are involved. Only then one can get hold of the nuances of the administration and indulge in mutual public interaction.
Q: What are significant changes that the Indian Police force adopted in the last few years and how have these changes facilitated a future-ready force for India?
A: It is known to all that policing is an enforcement agency within a democratic framework. Over the years, democracy has evolved and so have our people. Even a decade back, we were not used to the terms of community policing, technology and social media management in this domain but today to think of policing without these is almost impossible. A huge cultural shift has taken place in policing over the years. Also, the importance of human rights has gained more prominence than ever. Not only is it a sensitive issue but at times it is a strong subject that can give rise to several challenges for people in our field. Today, we have to be extra careful and cautious while looking into any case so that we do not infringe upon anyone’s rights during our work. Today, we are cautious as much as the netizens and this in itself is a tremendous change. Also, police are considered as an avenue for delivering safety and less of a sense of fear like it used to be earlier. Mutual communication has strengthened the bond between netizens and police which is an important step for a better democratic set-up.
Q: Indian police fraternity lacks a proper communication channel. Social media presence is at minimal for many and idea exchange between forces is irregular in many cases. Is the new breed of IPS officers eager to change the course, or follow the flock?
A: Social media or any other media platform for that matter is regarded as one of the most useful and important platforms for communication with the masses. Policing is regarded as a service-providing organisation in today’s times, backed by law and governed by a certain set of procedures. We remain faithful to that and use social media to propagate various news and other developments. Our ardent belief is that the media should not be controlled and be allowed to work freely and ethically.
Q: West Bengal has been always politically active, netizens are decent, somewhat sensitised about different social and political issues. Are these traits good for policing or a roadblock?
A: It all depends on the way we perceive the situation; whether as a road block or an advantage. But we must remember that people are cooperative by nature. Earlier, there was no such term as community policing. However, over the years it has developed into a concept that entails community’s cooperation in tackling a situation. It is good to see the community and people join hands with us. Sometimes we do face resistance but everything happens for a reason. It is because every stakeholder has his own point and it is not possible to reach to a decision unanimously always. Therefore, as those in uniform, it is our duty to understand their stakes which help us to interact with the community and come to solutions mutually. The fact is that people are peace loving in general and do not want unnecessary turmoil. Stakeholder management is of utmost importance in certain situations.
Q: What led you to this profession? Is it earning a secured future or the adrenaline rush?
A: After completing my Graduation from Presidency College and Post-Graduation from JNU, I opted for policing because once I completed my education, I saw my friends preparing for competitive courses and I decided to join them. Today as I look back, I feel my journey has been overwhelming and I am grateful for whatever I have learnt so far. The training and the service has the potential to change a person completely. One good change that I have witnessed is that earlier there was a sense of fear associated with policing but now police is most certainly identified with safety, security and also are said to be people-friendly. This has strengthened relations. The training and the journey from a man to a policeman is a difficult one and requires immense motivation, self-dedication to reach the ultimate goal. From changing your personality to your body, to building mental and physical stamina, learning new skill sets to taking plunges and getting rid of fear — all are a strenuous task to be undertaken. Policing involves challenges and life-changing experiences for an individual.
Q: On one hand, Khaki is a symbol of force, law and order and on the other hand, this uniform creates a certain perception on the people you serve, which sometimes builds a wall between the cops and the community. Do you agree that the new face of policing should find the right balance between the two?
A: Police were always considered to be as the last resort for people. Till a decade back, the sense of fear and anxiety was associated with the approach of policemen and their vehicles in the vicinity. Today, as the situation is changing, people’s mindset and perception towards the fraternity have altered a lot. Today, we are no longer the last resort for people but they are communicating and interacting with us in case any problem arises. They are visiting police stations to report or even resolve conflicts. So the sense of fear has been replaced with a sense of assurance, reliance, trust and safety which is a big step for the administration and for us as well. The gap has been bridged to a huge extent but it still has a long way to go.
Q: Covid has changed society and policing in India. What is your take?
A: Post pandemic, the situation is bound to have a different implication as we have already seen a lot of changes happen in the past few months. People are communicating more with the police and we are focusing on checking crime and improving our mode of communication. Daily interactions with residents from apartments and other communities have gone up. Our credibility as a service provider has penetrated well within the people.
Q: During crisis, every team member searches for motivation and a strong leader. How are you leading the force through this?
A: Few steps we took at the start of the pandemic have yielded good results. But post lockdown when the migrant labourers started pouring in, cases started to go up but were still manageable. Our DM has supported us well in this regard and we started setting up safe homes to isolate positive cases. Initially, two hospitals were reserved for Corona treatment. Also, the police officers who would be on duty for seven days had to be quarantined for another 14 days to check if they were infected. We also gave extra protection for people above 60 and 70 years of age since they were at a higher risk. Decongestion had been planned in different police stations to keep infections at bay. Also masks, sanitisers, oxymetres and thermal guns were given to people to keep themselves protected. Special care has been taken in and around marketplaces. Physical distancing was rigorously followed. We did our best to help people understand the gravity of the situation and our personnel had leading roles to play in organising such awareness campaigns.
Q: The digital surge has blurred the boundaries between rural and urban policing. Though the receptibility of the rural population is somewhat crippled by lack of knowledge and education, how are you handling this challenge?
A: If we look back to the initial days when the virus had just started spreading and lockdown was imposed in various states, people here were confused and were unable to understand the severity. A lot of cybercrimes had already started happening that served as an eye-opener for us. Our cybercrime branch had already made Facebook posts and videos in order to make people aware of similar scams which were likely to take place during this time. But compared to cities, cyber frauds are not so common in rural areas because online transactions are much less for the rural folk. However, what is important is that camps are arranged to help people understand that in case of any cybercrime, they should visit the nearest police station for timely action. It is satisfying to see that the cybercrime awareness videos posted on social media are amongst our most liked posts that proves that people are aware about these types of crimes and know what to do if such situations occur.