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Shortage of police manpower: Time to outsource law and order duties!

admin September 7, 2013

Even as the police forces across the country continue to try and fend off charges of slipshod policing and ineffective law and order mechanics that is being attributed to the rising crime graph in cities, the fact remains that more than anything else the deployment of available force is extremely ineffective in the country. It is also a fact that manpower crunch is being faced by most police forces in the country. And security technology that is often considered to be effective in diluting manpower shortage is very slow to be adopted.

Manpower crunch that is being faced by Delhi police for instance is being cited as one reason for the police force’s failure to provide security to the city. Recent reports said that as of now Delhi Police is struggling to fill 4,758 vacancies, 38 of which are at DCP level. Of these, at least eight DCPs are under transfer.

Add to this shortage the fact that over 6000 policemen in Delhi are appointed to take care of VIPs and the shortage goes to over 10,000 policemen. That’s 10,000 policemen who could have been on the road to give an impression of security but are missing from the action. Add to this a very large number of policemen that are specifically supposed to guard only vital installation and the shortage number goes even higher. This factor however is not new and Delhi police for one has always struggled with a shortage of staff. For years together traffic police for instance battled with less than 50 per cent of sanctioned staff strength simply because most were posted on law and order duties. So the problem is not a new one for the force.

bi-police-2So what is the way out? Insiders say Delhi will just have to take a cue from several other countries and start giving private security guards the kind of attention that they deserve. This sector coupled with adoption of security technology would be the only way that the constant refrain of the police about shortage can be neutralized.

A senior Delhi police officer on condition of anonymity told SECURITY TODAY that while the concept of security technology may have been accepted by police forces not just in Delhi but other cities as well, but the faith still stays on the government in manpower security. In other words they may not admit it but they believe that it is much better to have a situation where policemen can flood the roads to give a semblance of security rather than unseen eyes of a CCTV camera doing the job for them. “The CCTV camera while it may be very effective for subsequent investigation after an act of crime, will not prevent a crime from happening. For that you need the physical presence of a policeman to act as a deterrent. We don’t want aids to help us in investigation, we want a situation where the damn crime does not take place” he says.

bi-police-3This continued lack of faith in security technology is one reason why in spite of various city surveillance projects being initiated, not a single one has been put on the rails yet. Even the Mumbai CCTV project continues to flounder after multiple bids and proposals. In Delhi, no less a man than former police commissioner BK Gupta declared that the Capital of the country did not have a proper CCTV cover. What it had was CCTV installations in several markets in a random manner without any coordination in monitoring. Even after Mr BK Gupta retired and was replaced by the current police chief Neeraj Kumar, the situation stays exactly where it was. Periodic reports do come in of elaborate planning of projects but clearly the faith in these is limited.

Even as this goes in print, reports say that Delhi Police has shortlisted five consultancy firms to advise and support the government in implementing a project to make Capital safer. The project will put Delhi under a blanket of sophisticated CCTVs and decongest roads by giving real-time traffic information to motorists. Ernst & Young, Wipro Limited, PricewaterouseCoopers (PwC), Accenture Services and Telecommunications Consultants India (TCIL) were shortlisted and one of them could bag the consultancy contract from the government later this month. It is another matter that all shortlisted companies are IT based and Delhi police still has no clues how it plans to handle the physical security aspect of it all.

bi-police-4The big question is whether Delhi police believes that if the less serious tasks could be handed over to the private security industry, police can concentrate on more serious offence checks. The police officer believes the time has come when both the police top hierarchy and the Home ministry sits down to consider it seriously. Police officers say that several times they have to sanction a specific amount of force to keep watch on an event which clearly has no potential of turning into a problem. In other words wastage of manpower that could have been used for active policing and crime control.

Internationally too it took a while for the official law and order machinery to hand over a part of its task to private security guards that were hired by the force to supplement shortage of manpower. And as the police found it effective, the practice started being adopted in more tasks where the police felt that the private security guards were likely to provide the goods.

bi-police-5The private security industry too on many forums has been asking the government to try and test them out in non critical tasks. And while various representatives of the government have given sound bytes insisting that their request was being considered very seriously, nothing has happened.

The only significant change that took place on the subject after 26/11 was that hotels started using private security guards, thus ensuring their own security. Police thus did not have to rack their brains on how they would arrange for staff to provide security to the hotels as well especially when it became common knowledge that they were soft targets for terrorism.

Similarly cash in transit vans that move large amounts of cash across the cities, also rely on private security guards to deliver security. The police gets off from this duty as well. The question of, then why do police not utilise the private security guards on patrolling duties to supplement its manpower shortage, continues to defy logic. Police officers say that the problem is of not knowing what kind of background the guards that form the private security industry have. They say they would be in bigger trouble if a man put on duty for crime patrolling ends up being perpetrator of the crime.

There is little doubt that the private security industry in India is ready to ease some pressure off the official law and order machinery. But is the official law and order machinery ready to utilise the 50 lakh strong work force that exists in this sector? While police officers believe that eventually this would be the only answer to their manpower blues, the private security industry still needs to win the trust of the police force. Just like its international counterparts did.

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