Improving police performance with soft skills intervention

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We Indians have laid a lot of emphasis on the hard or functional skills of our manpower since Independence and the results can be easily seen — we have some of the best engineers, doctors, IT professionals etc. However, soft skills have never been given the priority they deserve. Most of our work-force lacks basic knowledge of courteous behaviour and etiquettes in the work place. Our police force is the most critical culprit in this regard. This attitude stems from our approach to training and development of our skilled/non-skilled workers. Training has never been a priority for industrial and business houses; government organisations are known to have indifferent attitude towards competence and capacity building needs of their employees. The police of today need to acquire many other skills; they have to maintain law and order and deal with problems arising out of rapid socio-economic, socio-political and socio-cultural changes apart from technological development. This calls for professional training on scientific lines.

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Centre and state governments spend a lot of money on various training and development activities of police personnel but the results in terms of motivated, effective and efficient policing with empathy as the core value remains a dream. The reason is basically lack of quality empirical research and analytical studies for police reforms (which should form the basis of any development of human resources) and poor implementation for training and development of police personnel by an indifferent management at different levels. Recently, Home Minister Rajnath Singh also stressed the need to impart suitable training to the police personnel in a changed social scenario.

In 2011, Bureau of Police Research and Development, Ministry of Home Affairs, launched an ambitious programme for improving the performance of police personnel through Human Resources Development (HRD) interventions and invited proposals from consultant organisations. The idea was to assess the gaps between desirable and actual performance and design interventions to fill the gaps. Organisations for imparting training in soft skills were selected after a very comprehensive selection process. However, it seems that like all government projects launched with much zeal and fanfare this has also failed in achieving its objective. One basic reason why such initiatives don’t yield any results is that organisations think one-shot training is good enough; they do not maintain any records of who has been trained when and up to what level and what further training is needed and the frequency thereof.

In 1902, a Commission was appointed by the British for police reforms. Its Chairman, AHL Fraser, had this to say about the police then, “The police force is far from efficient, it is defective in training and organizing, it is inadequately supervised, it is generally regarded as corrupt, oppressive and it has utterly failed to secure the confidence and cordial cooperation of the people.” In 2017, the situation appears to have remained the same. As far as police reforms are concerned, an exasperated apex court had this to say in March this year, “Police reforms are going on and on. Nobody listens to our orders.” In fact, the Supreme Court had directed all the states and UTs to comply with seven binding directives in 2006, but no state had followed its directions. It is appalling that the police is still guided and governed by the outdated Indian Police Act, 1861.

A growing economy like India requires a large skilled manpower, including quality policing system, an essential aspect of any civilized society. Human Resources Planning (HRP) is a part of overall manpower management which is basically concerned with having the right type of people available as and when required and improving the performance of the existing people to make them more effective on their jobs. Unfortunately, manpower planning is a neglected area in the Indian context, especially in government organizations. Training and Development (T&D) activities are not given due importance since it is considered as an expenditure of time and money and not as an investment which can give very rich dividends. T&D occupies a very important place in the overall manpower planning process.

Training of police personnel should be carried out within each district rather than making ambitious plans at State level which cannot be executed because of several reasons. Training Need Analysis (TNA) may be carried out centrally but the head of the police force at the district level must be given the freedom to modify the training program suiting his special needs. Government must be very clear of the terminal behaviour expected from different levels of police personnel. To begin with, there is a need to organize brain-storming sessions at carefully selected locations with top, middle and junior personnel to acquire comprehensive and contemporary understanding about Training and Development inputs. Understanding present systems of training, operating environment and motivation levels of the trainees can help in formulating a realistic and effective training policy. Priority of providing them with the inputs within each state will be decided by the state police chiefs depending upon their policing needs and priorities. But, it is felt that training must begin with SHOs, the most visible arm of the police force, so that they are seen by ordinary citizens as their friends whose job is to help them live as good citizens of India.

Poor governance leads to corruption, both petty and large, both of which corrode the moral fabric of the society. It is unfortunate that police along with the revenue departments of the States are considered the most corrupt organisations in India. It is often quoted that more corrupt the state, the more the laws. Petty corruption, often called small ticket corruption associated with delivery of public services, has become a way of life for some police personnel. Fortunately, social media has brought in transparency and the common man is becoming more and more aware of his rights. Since professional dishonesty can be corrected only by changes in the personality of a person, as such any investment in training must aim to bring about suitable changes in the personality traits of the police personnel.

An individual’s ability to excel in domain knowledge is not good enough in today’s competitive world. In fact, domain knowledge is only one aspect of competency level. Professional training of individuals must integrate Functional Skills with Soft Skills so that they can perform their responsibilities effectively. Unless their ‘core competency’ is suitably reinforced by complementary traits of their personality, they will not be able to realise their full potential and will have only limited use for their organizations.

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