Challenges and Barriers to Community Policing in India

Community policing like any other initiative also suffers from some inherent problems and limitations. Organizing community participation has never been an easy task as it involves addressing multi-faceted issues such as motivating the members of the community, managing doubts, harmonizing divergent interests, containing structures of vested interests and team building. A brief look of some major irritants will be of some use:

Maintaining Enthusiasm

Maintaining enthusiasm is always vital for the success of any initiative. Often the excitement and enthusiasm among people dies with time and the initial enthusiasm of local government personnel lasts only until the realities of everyday work return. As time passes people tend to go back to their daily lives. Among those who attempt to carry on are activists and watch groups, whose participation alone cannot make community policing effective. Ultimately though, there must be active support from the police

Ensuring sustainability

Ensuring Sustainability comes next. How to make community policing institutionalized in the form decided by the community and police administration, so that it can withstand changes within local government and police administration is a challenge. The answer for this question determines the outcome of the community policing initiative. The law enforcement officers and first-line supervisors play a crucial role in sustaining community policing.   If police officers find it helpful for doing their jobs and people start to perceive its benefits in their immediate environment, community policing will likely to continue for a long term.

Community policing versus societal problems

In many cases, societal problems lie at the root cause of a crime. It cannot be addressed by police department and community policing alone. Solving problems such as unemployment and drug abuse requires the active involvement of various stakeholders such as the government and agencies specifically established to address such problems. It should be well recognized that community policing cannot guarantee a crime free community, though it may in some cases act as a deterrent.

Need for institutional change of Police as an organization

Culture encompasses of values, morals, beliefs, and traditions. Changing the culture of an organization, particularly a police department, to accommodate the nuances of community policing is quite challenging. Changing the culture necessarily means changing behaviors. The behavioural practices which will lead to safer communities needs to be adopted by both police personnel and local government officials to aptly mange community expectations. More importantly, the trust of the community should never be breached. It should be ensured that the process does not turn into spying for or against the police.

Menace of elite capture

It is observed that the resources designated for the welfare of larger public is usurped by few elites. It is often criticized that the members from the public who are selected as members for samithis are chosen invariably among the elites, who in turn tend to neglect the welfare of the downtrodden. Further, the politicization of the members also occurs in some areas.

Practical considerations

Building up of partnership between the police and the community is a major challenge. The public may not be keen to develop partnership with the police and communities may be skeptic about the police intentions. Also, there is fear among the public of the possible repercussions that they may have to face from the criminals if they closely cooperate with the police.

Further, dedicated resources such as staff, financial support, time etc. are mandatorily required for problem solving and partnership efforts to support community policing. Moreover, in the absence of fixed tenure for field level officers, they may not be able to build enduring relationships with the community.

How to address the limitations?

The above mentioned limitations are not altogether insurmountable. Some limitations can be addressed by taking proactive steps. Community policing must be made the way of doing business, and not to be seen as a new initiative only. The various stakeholders such as police personnel and other local government leaders must help break down the barriers that prevent the successful implementation of community policing and foster cross-agency partnerships. Due attention must also be given for maintaining community interest and enthusiasm for community policing. Regular communication and coordination among community stakeholders are vital to a sustained and successful effort. Clear policies and continued successful practices can go a long way to ensure that the police receive the support they need to be effective.

Human beings are not infallible. With proper understanding, communication, and cooperation among community stakeholders the communities can be made safer places to live, work and provide enabling environment for sustained growth and economic development.