The news of 119 of 122 IPS probationers failing exams in National Police Academy has been the talking point not only among the public but also the IPS fraternity. Many including the non-IPS ranks in the department are curious to know what exams were these that had failed the ‘To-be-police leaders’.

Some retired officers shrugged in doubt on the capabilities of the present incumbents, while some other serving officers went into defensive mode stating how the IPS probationers during training go through hardships both indoors and outdoors, suffer fractures/injuries at outdoors and yet keep going uncomplaining.

A few compared the training academies of IAS, IPS, IRS and other allied services to tell the slashing media and the sceptic public how the exams at National Police Academy, the alma-mater that trains the IPS officers, are the toughest.

A professor wrote on social media that the world-class facilities in National Police Academy are wasted because the IPS probationers are focussing on passing IAS exam, not learning policing which is expected of them. Some others wrote in support of a stark recommendation that IPS should have separate recruitment unlike the present system of IAS/IPS/IRS & allied services having a common Civil Services Examination conducted by UPSC wherein the Service is allocated depending on one’s rank in the exam.

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Of the 10 lakh people who apply for UPSC civil services exam, finally about 400 to 1500 people(depending on the vacancy that year), make it. Of these the IPS officers are about 30 to 150(depending on vacancy again) and they are those with higher ranks than those getting other services. How can the cream that has passed such a testing examination as UPSC Civil Services fail the academy exams?

The IPS training started with a handful of subjects at Mount Abu has now grown into a giant with almost everything on earth being added every year to the curriculum upon the thought that a police officer must be prepared to act in any given circumstance. Probationers are trained from assembling/dismantling the weapons(all latest guns included) and firing to rock climbing, scuba diving, not to mention the traditional horse riding and gymnastic physical training.

Though some of us cannot fathom the relevance of these, we are indoctrinated that all these things make us tougher to face any challenge-underground, on the ground, in air and water! Nevertheless, IPS training is one of the most refreshing, challenging world-class training.

IPS probationers

What makes me ponder, however, is that inspite of this kind of training, why do the IPS officers bend and crackle in the field. Why aren’t they able to stand up against illegal orders of political masters, corruption, nepotism that ails this country. Why are the brilliant, physically and mentally fit probationers rendered ineffectual in the field.

That is because inspite of the clear cut system of laws and rules telling what the police should do, policing in India is largely ‘Officer-centric’ and not ‘system-centric’.

Depending on the officer who heads the district or a city commissionerate, the priorities of policing change. A simple example from my experience is – one boss allotted motor bikes to the constables on night rounds instructing that they should be continuously mobile in their beats(areas allotted to them). His thinking was that if the motorcycles are given, they will not waste time resting here and there on the pretext of being tired.

The next incumbent who replaced him reversed the whole process and stuck to his conventional thought that the traditional method of patrol-on-foot was the best as it ensured the policeman knowing each and every house in his beat-area in a better way and that with every step on foot he could watch minute details on the street which was not possible on a zooming motorbike. Both the bosses had the best of intentions but failed to put their idea to ‘test’. They believed that as their intentions were bonafide, they couldn’t go wrong.

Police officers think that they are the authorities on the subject and hence their ideas are fool-proof, which is why you will wake-up one morning and find that the road you travel everyday has suddenly become ‘one-way’. There’s no evidence of the impact or workability of these ideas and no accountability. As a result, these practices howsoever bonafide, tend to be no more than the whims and fancies.

National Police Academy is not an exception. The heads of the academies have changed the training system now and then to ensure what they thought the best was in place. I remember one Director placing impetus on drill with all its variants foot-drill, arms drill, lathi drill and increased the drill periods considerably.

His belief was that drill was the best way to inculcate ‘discipline’ – the main stay of the police force; the IPS as police leaders needed to know the nuances of every movement like salute, the march, etc because not only would they be expected to return the salutes of subordinates but also need to perfect the art and correct if subordinates didn’t do it right. His successor who didn’t see good in it, reversed it.

Impact-evaluation of different subjects taught in the academy, methodology of teaching, number of hours dedicated to that subject and finally its relevance to field-policing is the utmost need of the hour and is realised only by those who have an ‘open-mind’.

Over the years, thousands of IPS officers have visited the developed countries at government expense and have witnessed how in USA/UK and elsewhere the police has done away with the superfluous ostentation of raw power. But the Indian Police is stuck in time when the British left us.

Many in this country join police simply because of the colonial/feudal raw power that it confers vis-a-vis the powerless common man. Some policemen paraphrase with pride that in this country their survival would have been difficult had they not been in police! If this is the mindset and motivation to join the police, then, God save the police.

A normal police meeting is one in which 90% time the boss speaks and 10% time the juniors only nod their heads in agreement or pitch in their thoughts which are only in conformity with boss’s ideas. Any other idea is looked down upon as being indisciplined and hence unwelcome.

When the IPS officers get together their favourite topic of discussion is not policing but self comparison vis-a-vis the IAS and whining. Sometimes the comparison is vis-a-vis the army, particularly in areas affected by insurgency and terrorism, where Army plays a considerable role in civil administration. Victimisation of police at the hands of media, Human Rights Commissions, Judiciary, social activists, RTI activists is another hot topic at the informal forums.

They blame it on the dirty politics, the corrupt electorate, every other thing and embrace a ‘defeatist attitude’. They rationalise that unless the society changes, the police cannot change. But, whatsoever be the truth in the victimisation of police and deplorable working conditions, that still cannot be the pretext for not embracing reforms.

While the IPS vehemently opposes the domination of the IAS babus on them on the logic that the IAS are generalists not having specialised knowledge of policing, on the other hand, they do not want to specialise in different areas of policing and want to remain ‘generalist-policemen’.

It is time the IPS gave up double standards and began to look ‘within’. Even the best of the brains in IPS after few years lose the academic flair and scientific temper. Most of the young IPS will agree to the fact that when they call on their seniors, they will be bombarded with the stories of “In the year so and so, I did this…..” Currently the IPS officers speak from their own experiences and are in a delusion that their experiences are gospel truth. Instead, what we need is empirical research based, evidence based policing – a test of the current ways and means of policing.

News Reporter