Professional policing promotes the rule of law, and can support economic growth and improve the lives of the poor by protecting them from crime. In India, the police are often perceived as corrupt, ineffective and brutal, stemming from a plethora of systemic, organizational and behavioral challenges. Officers themselves report feeling unsatisfied, overworked and neglected by the system. They often lack the adequate resources, skills and aptitude of modern policing necessary to effectively perform their duties, yet police reform is rarely prioritized. The recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977-81) have suggested several measures to improve the standard of policing; however, seldom have they been implemented by successive governments.
The Rajasthan Police, in collaboration with J-PAL researchers, tested the effects of improved police training on measures of police efficiency and local perceptions of the officers. A household survey of crime and police and public perception was undertaken to determine the baseline, using individual interviews rather than official statistics. Two training modules were investigated: first, Investigation Officers were given a week-long training session on scientific techniques of investigation at the Rajasthan Police Academy in Jaipur. Second, police personnel of all ranks in police stations were trained on “soft skills” such as communication, mediation, leadership, stress management, attitude change and other personality development skills that facilitated community interaction. To observe whether it was necessary to train an entire police station staff or if a few ‘change agents’ could have the desired impact, the proportion of officers in a police station who received training was randomized.
Both types of training—investigation and soft skills—had significant positive effects on the quality of police work and public satisfaction. In police stations where all staff were trained, victim satisfaction increased by 30 percent, while fear of the police was reduced by 17 percent. Investigation quality of trained police officers also improved. However, no trickle down effect was observed: the increase in satisfaction was proportional to the number of trainees within a police station. The household crime survey, the first of its kind in India, revealed significant under-reporting of crimes. For more about this project, see the related evaluation page.
Informing the Debate
Encouraged by the results of Rajasthan initiative, soft skill training of police personnel is now being recognized as an important instrument for improving police engagement with citizens and for promoting community oriented policing. Training in communication, mediation, stress management, team building and leadership has been incorporated in the syllabi of the basic trainings of constabulary, Sub-Inspectors and Deputy Superintendent of Police, as well as in the Promotional Cadre Courses (PCC) of police personnel in Rajasthan. At the national level too there is an increased awareness regarding the significance of training for better policing standards.
Scaling Up Police Training
Following the two-year pilot program in Rajasthan, statewide police reforms have been initiated. The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), under the aegis of Ministry of Home Affairs in India, the apex body for policy formulation of Indian Police, have sanctioned a special grant for the scale-up of both investigation and soft skills training across Rajasthan state. Training in soft skills (communication and mediation, stress management, leadership and attitudinal and behavioral changes) has been scaled-up to cover 7,674 Constables, Head Constables, Assistant Sub-Inspectors, Sub-Inspectors and Inspectors—10 percent of the 78,000 police personnel in the state. Training in scientific investigative methods has been scaled-up to cover 1,694—over 18 percent of the total 9,046 Investigating Officers in the rank of Assistant Sub Inspectors, Sub Inspectors and Inspectors.
The soft skills training scale-up is carried out in two phases: in the first, police personnel attend a four-day training module. This is followed by a two-day refresher course for the same staff after six months. A weekly module of training in scientific investigative methods was completed at the Rajasthan Police Academy in Jaipur in March 2011. The Rajasthan police training scale-up is the first such initiative anywhere in the country, and a number of other states, as well as BPRD are also exploring the concept.
Thanks to the results of the evaluation, training for police personnel has increasingly been recognized as a core policy concern for improving policing. Not only has the Government of India decided to scale up the soft skills and professional trainings for police personnel, but it has also pledged to provide adequate resources to build such capacities on an ongoing basis. In 2011, a US$19 million grant was sanctioned from the 13th Finance Commission of the Government of India to achieve this in Rajasthan.
Spillover Benefits of the Evaluation
In India, the state governments rely on registration of crimes at police stations to measure crime rates. Such police registration-based statistics have a serious drawback: Since the performance of an officer is evaluated by the registration of crime in his police station, there is a natural tendency to either hide crime or not register cases in order to reduce the appearance of crime rates.
Systematic victim studies, though expensive and difficult to implement, yield more realistic data on crime levels than official police statistics because these include incidents that have never been reported to or recorded by the police. The household crime survey conducted by J-PAL for the Rajasthan Police revealed that only 29 percent of crimes are ever reported to the police. In light of the serious underreporting of crime indicated by the household crime survey in Rajasthan, the first of its kind in India, the BPRD is now considering adopting crime survey as a formal method to measure crime.