“We are looking at greater accountability of police towards the public. To this end, we will set up joint advisory committees that will include police officers and members of the public in the jurisdiction of each police station that will work on addressing local issues. We had advised SPs and commissioners in January and work has already begun on this,” stated DGP Anil Pratham who heads Police Reforms in the state. He was briefing scribes about the long-awaited reforms for sensitivity towards public convenience. The move is part of the new government’s resolution for positive results within 100 days into the New Year.
It is mention worthy that the previous year was not the best where it came to the image of the Gujarat Police. Not only were the men in uniform accused of custodial torture, time and again the glare was back on police conduct with cases of publicly flogging suspects amid cheering by mobs, mistreating members of the public during night patrolling and even harassing street vendors. Added, a horde of personnel were under the scanner for charges ranging from corruption to being part of illicit liquor and gambling networks.
Added, one-third of all applications sent by people to the Inquiries Section of State Police (5,700 of 16,300) in 2021, were related to inaction by local police.
The top brass of the police department has planned a slew of reforms that not only seek to make the police directly accountable to the public, but one that hopes to change its image in the eyes of the people they serve. To begin with, plans are afoot for greater involvement of the general public in policing.
Apart from accountability, the state police are also looking to better the environment inside police stations, at least in the major ones, and keep the investigation side and law and order duties of the police separate from each other so that police stations can become safe places for complainants and even children.
Among the complimentary programmes run by the police last year, Suraksha Setu, SHE Teams and Abhayam Helpline, received accolades for working towards helping the elderly, women and children, working on suicide prevention and attempting to be the “kind hearts in khaki.” Added, the village police system (Gram Rakshak Dal) will be guided and monitored by Police Bhavan in Gandhinagar.
A recent meeting with representatives of about 50 NGOs from across Gujarat conducted with UNICEF in December 2022 discussed “Community Policing.” The notings are likely to be translated into action this year, which also mark the 10th anniversary of the Suraksha Setu programme. Alongside, plans are also underway to expand the scope of SHE Team operations beyond the four major cities.
Significantly, DGP Vikas Sahay’s efforts at lowering the rate of custodial deaths deserves mention. Gujarat Police held the notorious first rank in India for the same in 2020 and 2021.
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