By Shikha Sreenivas
The New Delhi police in an effort to smoothen grievance redressal have inducted 60 trained women sub-inspectors as public facilitation officers across 20 police stations, to begin with. Times of India reports that now you have a “pleasant surprise” at police stations, because instead of “a grumpy, disinterested policeman” you will now register your complaint with “a smart young woman”.
The language of the Times of India article is perhaps the first hint that this move needs to be regarded with some skepticism. ADGP Dependra Pathak said at Connaught Place that visits to the police station were unfruitful, because even after waiting the Investigation Officer or Station House Office may be unavailable “for some reason or the other”. He says this will change with the move to have dedicated public facilitation officers.
Times of India reports that as a part of an image makeover bid, the police commissioner Amulya Patnaik appointed women public facilitation officers as first point of contact for people. The women have received training in communication skills and “how to handle police complaints sensitively”, the report says. “The aim is to make police interaction with the public more empathetic, responsive and effective.”
But of course, the problems with registering a complaint at a police station are usually not just because of the unavailability of the IO or SHO. It can come down to police refusing to file FIRs, failing to register rape cases for days and not taking grievances seriously. Admittedly, not all the articles linked to are in interactions with New Delhi police stations, but the point is that all across the country, the problem is more grave than just unavailability of the IO or SHO.
This move is exactly what Amulya Patnaik described it as — an “image makeover”. It uses a certain symbolism that associates women with being caring and empathetic, to avoid addressing the real lack of care and empathy that exists in some police stations anyway.