Training for transformation

SANKAR SEN

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TRAINING has been defined as a conscious effort to improve and increase knowledge, skill and aptitude of an individual in a desired direction. The object of training is not only to develop the professional skill of an individual for the performance of duties in an assigned job, but also to improve his capacity for shouldering greater responsibility. Unfortunately, though the crucial and transforming role of training is acknowledged by one and all, there has not been any sustainable and meaningful endeavour to improve the scope and quality of police training in the country.

This is a pity because the police was the first civil service in the country to think of systematic institutional training for its personnel. A training school for constables was first established in Vellore (Madras Presidency) in 1859. Similar training institutions were set up in Phillore (Punjab) and Moradabad (U.P.) in the early 1890s. Police training schools were established in the first decade of the century in most of the provinces for the training of officers of and above the rank of sub-inspectors as a result of recommendations of the All India Police Commission of 1902-03.

Unfortunately, police training was patterned on the training given in military training establishments. The military model was accepted by police training institutions due to historic reasons and circumstances. The senior ranks of the police services in the second half of the last century, when police training institutions came into being, were filled by officers taken from the British Indian Army. While organising training on the model of the army, the fact that the police and army had different roles to perform and work in different environments was not taken into consideration.

The same trend continued even after Independence. In 1971, the Government of India set up a committee on police training under the chairmanship of eminent sociologist and educationist, M.S. Gore. The committee reviewed the existing facilities in different training institutions and came to the unflattering conclusion that police training had been badly neglected over the years and training arrangements, except in some central organisations, were unsatisfactory both quantitatively and qualitatively.

 

 

The committee in an able report made some well thought out recommendations for improving the training syllabi, organisation of training and instructional methods and so on. The committee also expressed the view that the most important reason for this unhappy situation was a lack of conviction about the value of training on the part of the administration, including the higher ranks of police services. The Gore Committee rightly shifted the focus of the training from drill and regimentation to the development of proper attitudes through the study of social and behavioural science and modern management norms and techniques.

Many of the important recommendations of the Gore Committee were accepted by the government and some concrete steps were taken to tone up the functioning of the important police and paramilitary training institutions of the central government. Unfortunately, the quality and the nature of the police training in many of the states have not registered any improvement after nearly three decades since the publication of the report. Training has remained, as described in the report of the Gore Committee, ‘a ritual where unwilling and ill-equipped instructors are performing the rites of training and drilling to the unwilling trainees.’

It is now recognised that no worthwhile improvement in the training of police personnel is possible unless capable and conscientious officers are brought in to the training institutions as trainers. The trainer must enjoy an honoured position in the institution so that he can play the role of a change agent. If the training is to serve the primary purpose of preparing an individual to meet the challenges of today and complexities of the future, the role of the instructor as the change agent is crucial. The Gore Committee recommended suitable incentives including rent free accommodation, special pay, recognition in the form of subsequent promotions or good postings for the trainers with a view to attracting the best available talent.

 

 

Unfortunately, except in some central training institutions, these incentives have not been made available to the trainers. As a result, competent and qualified staff are loath to come as trainers in the police training schools/colleges. Very often, postings in the training institutions are viewed as a punishment. At present there is no fixed tenure of the trainers and many of the officers posted in the training institutions unabashedly continue their efforts to get out as speedily as possible. There is no planned turnover of staff and consquently no infusion of new blood. Many of the trainers are without any specialized training or knowledge of the subject which they are supposed to teach. In some of the institutions, the trainers receive no evaluation of their capabilities as there is no feedback system.

As Director of the National Police Academy, I visited different police training institutions in the U.K. I found that, unlike in India, the job of trainers in police training institutions was a prestigious one and there was a long list of officers willing to serve. Trainers not only had excellent teaching and communication skills, but also wide ranging police experience. They, thus, brought into the training process the necessary wisdom and experience to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

There is also a need to change the methodology of training. Instruction in the police training schools and colleges is largely based on the lecture method. There is an acute paucity of good training materials and aids. Very few good films have been produced in India on police training. Today, in all well-known institutions, there have been important changes in the methods of instruction. Classroom instruction and discussions are accompanied by a number of role-play scenarios. The prevailing philosophy is to get the trainees to perform as soon as possible to reinforce what they have learnt. The important point is that the police training institution is a professional institution where it is necessary to impart to the trainees not merely knowledge of the subjects but also to learn how this knowledge can be applied to the work they will be required to perform in the field.

 

 

Further, most police training institutions have no research base. The Gore Committee was struck by the total absence of any research facilities in any police training institution. The situation has not changed since then. Research is absolutely necessary so that trainees remain intellectually vibrant and up-to-date in their knowledge. Fundamental research may not always be possible in such institutions but some amount of applied research by the instructional staff to remove the hiatus between theoretical training and practical police work is critical. Without a research cell under competent instructors it is not possible for the training institutions to take note of the changing situations and develop realistic training programmes. And, to survive successfully in today’s changing and dynamic world, law enforcement officers have to be continually up-dated on the latest techniques and developments in policing.

 

 

In most of the police training institutions there is no system of evaluation. Evaluation is, however, essential for a dynamic training system. The Gore Committee strongly recommended the importance of developing a sound evaluation system in police training in the following words: ‘In order to ensure that trainees are developing properly, a system of evaluation which can serve as the basis of further improvement in teaching as well as learning should be introduced. It should be continuous and comprehensive enough to cover both the academic and non-academic areas and related to the objectives of the training programmes.’

A study conducted by the National Police Academy on evaluation practices in vogue (some of the police training colleges were randomly selected for the study) showed that in seven out of nine police training institutions, the trainees’ reactions to the training programmes were not evaluated by adopting any well-laid-out scheme. Syllabi in the training institutions were found to be fixed and evaluation did not play any role in the modification of various syllabi. Informal evaluation procedures suggested by the Gore Committee, namely question-answer sessions, group discussions and role playing were not part of the training module.

Often, a noteworthy feature of police training is its isolation, an unfortunate foretelling of the isolation that is characteristic of police life in service. Like in a military college or other ‘total institutions’, the recruit is placed in a circumstance of new social dependencies and resocialized. The isolation begins in the training establishments where the recruit is immersed into a new environment requiring total commitment, conformity and loyalty. To counteract this isolation, police training should be broadened with a view to developing in police officers a better understanding of their role in relation to total societal goals and better understanding of the behaviour of particular groups.

 

 

The ultimate success of any training programme is dependent upon a wise and dynamic recruitment policy. Training, to an extent, can make up for some deficiencies in the recruit, as one experienced officer has put it, but it cannot rectify the original error. If recruits of poor quality are enlisted because of extraneous considerations, no amount of training can mould them into competent and capable officers. At present, because of age relaxation, recruits of higher age groups are entering the various ranks of the police. As the Director of the National Police Academy, I had written to the MHA that IPS trainees of a higher age group (at present the upper age limit is 28 instead of 24 in the past) find it difficult to cope with the stress and strain imposed by a rigorous training programme. Some of them arrive with frozen attitudes and a negative app-roach emphasized during the training. I strongly advocated that the IPS probationers should be caught young, within the age bracket of 20 to 24 at the time of recruitment.

The 21st century is fast approaching. Vast and sweeping alterations are taking place which will radically affect the role performance of the police. With rapid industrialization, urbanization and operation of other crimogenic factors, there will be a steep increase in crime. By the end of the century, India’s population may reach the billion mark. An expert esti-mate is that the country will be faced with a forbidding challenge of crime to the tune of eight million offences under the Indian Penal Code and about 20 million under special acts and laws. The face of crime is also changing. In tomorrows diverse and protean society, police officers will be called upon to deal with crimes as varied as computer fraud, nuclear terrorism, trafficking in narcotics and so on.

The disruptive and secessionist elements are active in various parts of the country. The police force has not only to be mentally alert, but also physically tough. In police training there must be a balance of both indoor and outdoor aspects of the job. It is necessary to place a substantial degree of emphasis on physical fitness, survival training and judgmental shooting. The police personnel have to test their judgement and accuracy in ‘shoot’/‘don’t shoot’ situations, which will prepare them to face situations when confronted with a decision whether or not to use deadly force.

 

 

However, it has to be borne in mind that the effectiveness of today’s law enforcement officers must be based not only on their knowledge, skills and abilities, but on the ethical application of what they have learned. In his book, Character and Cops: Ethics in Policing, Edwin Delattre aptly said: ‘What is taught by the academies about ideals should be woven into the realities of the streets.’ Police officers have to be motivated by a value system. Otherwise, skills learnt may be misused or not sustained.

Often, there are allegations against the police (some not without substance) of gross violations of human rights. The Constitution of India has laid great stress on human rights and dignity. The Supreme Court, in a memorable judgement, in the case of D.K. Basu vs. State of Bengal, stated: ‘whenever the human dignity is wounded, civilization takes a step backward. The flag of humanity on each such occasion must fly at half-mast.’ During training, the point has to be stressed that adherence to human rights norms will enable the police to discharge its legal functions more effectively and competently. It will also help the police to build better and stronger bridges with the community.

Without support of the community, the police cannot function properly. For effective crime prevention and order maintenance, support of the community is a sine qua non. The Council of Europe set up a committee of experts for the promotion of information and education in the field of human rights. The committee selected the police member states as the primary target for the attainment of its objectives and laid utmost emphasis on the teaching of human rights in police training. Its book, Human Rights and Police, stressed that police officers should be carefully selected for their human qualities and properly trained to perform their duties in an ethically correct manner.

For effecting any real improvement in police work on the ground there should be the utmost stress on training of police personnel. However, training, though essential, is not the only input for improving and optimizing work performance and effecting attitudinal transformation of the officers and men. Training can be effective, provided the organisation has faith in it and the organisational climate encourages the observance of precepts taught during training. A heavy responsibility rests on the senior officers to build a congenial organisational climate.

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