Thursday, December 7, 2023

Police- Public relations and the war on drugs


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By HH Mohrmen

In 2012, this writer wrote an article about the kind of relationship that the police have with the public both in the vernacular paper and in The Shillong Times. The write-up espoused the poor public relationship that the police had then. One of the instant outcomes of the article was that St Edmunds College’s Social Work Department then organized a panel discussion on the subject. The write-up was the impression that I had when I visited the police station those days. Not only were the police stations not people-friendly, but the public relations of the police was very poor, to say the least. Since then a lot has changed and the police department has worked hard to improve the situation.
Concept of policing then
The kind of policing practice in those days was that the public should be afraid of the police. Perhaps the belief was that if the citizens are afraid of the police then they would not commit any crime. Police are paid to purposely keep their mustache and their beards to make them appear manly or give them a fearsome look. That was the kind of image that they wanted the police to have then so that people should be afraid of them. There is immense trust deficit that the people have in the police; the approach then was to treat every citizen as a potential criminal. Even the police station does not have that appealing look and the cell at the police station smells like an uncleaned toilet. The police officers did not have their cabin and there was no space to even sit for the people who visited the police station.
The friendly thana or police station
Everything has changed now and not only are police stations wearing a new look but even the approach of the policemen is improving. To improve its public image the police department is undergoing a complete overhaul of the institution and its approaches. In an attempt to make the police station attractive, the police are now promoting the friendly Thana or friendly Police station concept too. The police now have programs where they invite students to visit the police stations and also organize regular interactions with the public. The women-exclusive police station is also very active and always on their toes to combat crime against women. The women police on their own also organize interactions with students and the community at large.
Physically fit policemen
The Police in the state are also trying to improve their physical fitness. The case of the West Jaintia Hills Police under the leadership of the District’s Superintendent of Police is a case in point. The District head of the police Chemphang Syrti leads from the front and organizes regular long-distance running for the police force. The run is regularly updated on the District Police Social Media platform.
Police’s recent war
on drugs
This writer was specially invited by the police as witness when drugs worth over Rs 4 crore were consigned to flames. Narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances worth over Rs 4 crore were incinerated at the Star Cement plant in Lumshnong, East Jaintia Hills District. The disposal of these narcotics and psychotropic substances, seized in various cases, took place on November 9, 2023, at the Star Cement Plant’s furnace. Dr. L.R. Bishnoi, Director General of Police, briefing the press mentioned that the consignments were confiscated from over 51 cases- 25 cases from West Jaintia Hills, 10 Cases from East Khasi Hills, 14 cases from West Khasi Hills and 2 from Ri Bhoi District from across the state. The seized drugs, which include heroin worth Rs 3 crore, cannabis, and even cough syrups worth Rs 80 lakh and 20 lakh respectively were retrieved from districts under the Eastern Range, which include East Khasi Hills, Ri Bhoi District, West Khasi Hills, and West Jaintia Hills. Dr. Bishnoi stated that more than 500 drug traffickers were apprehended during this process.
Bishnoi emphasized that due process was adhered to and that the Supreme Court’s orders regarding the disposal of seized drugs were meticulously followed. To ensure zero pollution, permissions were obtained from the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board in Shillong for the disposal of these substances. But this is just the tip of the iceberg; drugs seized from the other police ranges in the state are yet to be destroyed.
Police strategies to
fight drugs
The police chief stated that in their fight against this issue, the police have adopted six strategies. These strategies involve creating awareness by engaging the community and educational institutions. The second strategy includes reinforcing enforcement and the third strategy that the police use is providing better training to police personnel to deal with the menace. The police must have ample experience in rehabilitation of the drug users. There are plenty of cases where users were arrested and then they craved drugs and suffered at the police station. The police were not trained to tackle such situations and without proper training, even the doctors posted at the prisons are also not equipped to provide proper treatment to the patient.
In such cases, the only solution is to promote rehabilitation by linking victims with the Social Welfare Department and the Health Department. Rehabilitation is also very expensive because right now mostly private agencies provide this important service to the user. The need of the hour is for the Government to start more rehabilitation centers that will cater even to the poor sections of the population. The police also realize that the fight against drugs cannot be won without the support of the media; hence one of the strategies was seeking media support in combating the drug menace. With the rapid development of technology, the police head also highlighted the need for the force’s adaptation to modern times by utilizing available technology to combat the problem. The sad reality is the growing number of people using drugs and the much more serious concern is that the number of female users is also growing.
Fighting drugs
beyond policing
If policing is the only approach that the police use to combat the drug menace, they can only contribute to cutting the supply chain by arresting and seizing drugs entering the state. They have done a commendable job in this respect but the drug problem is a social issue that cannot be stopped by cutting the supply chain. Drug menace can be stopped if we can curb the demand site and this is one challenging task to overcome. Reducing the demand for drugs is essential to address the drug problem in the state. During his media briefing, DGP Bishnoi said that in their fight against drugs, the police have now gone beyond policing. He said that the police conducted over 1500 awareness campaigns at the community level and the same were also organized at the educational institutions across the state. Police at the police station level have taken the fight to the grassroots level by intensifying their interaction with the community.
The police are
also equipped
In the past when drugs were seized they had to be sent elsewhere since the state did not have its own Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL). The good news is that the Government now has instituted a state-of-the-art Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) unit within the police department. The advantage of having its own FSL unit is that it eliminates the need to rely on other states for testing drugs seized within Meghalaya.
There’s an African saying, “It takes the whole village to raise a child,” similarly the participation of the entire community is needed to successfully tackle the drug problem. The police cannot do it alone but they need the support of the community and even the churches to combat the menace which is eating away the youths who are the future pillars of society.

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