Police-public relationship
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This article is written by Bheeni Goyal, from Symbiosis Law School, Pune which discusses defining the relationship between the police and public in context with metropolitan areas.


A perfect definition cannot exist for defining the relationship between the public and the police. It’s a subjective concept and depends on the area, circumstances, and various other factors. Police have been responsible for maintaining the law and order in the state. Due to the increasing crime rate, the work of the police has increased especially in metropolitan cities where thousands of crimes are reported every day. For all the investigation purposes and solving the crime, they need help and support from the individuals living in this society. This required a strong relationship of trust and cooperation between the police and the public. However, there are various critical factors that exist which affect the relationship between both parties. There could be various Historical reasons or the behaviour of the police in the current scenario. Therefore in this article, the author has taken the effort to define those points where the relationship between police and public is affected in context with metropolitan areas and cities.

Concept of police and public relationship

The role of the police is to develop peace and security in society but for the purpose of achieving the said goal, there is a requirement of public support as well. A healthy relationship is required between both parties for achieving the desired public involvement in the operations of the police so that it is acceptable in society. The government for the purpose of achieving the law and order in society requires the cooperation of the public. Likewise, the police in order to maintain peace and law and order in society need the crucial support of the public. Some of the jurists had tried to define this concept. According to Radelet, police-public relations mean, “the reciprocal attitude of the police and the public to the expected and performed tasks of the police, and to involve general public relations, community services, and community participation.

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Let’s see how the relationship between the police and the public has developed over the years.

Evolution of police-public relationship

For understanding the relationship between the police and the public, there is a need to understand the development of such relations over the years. The relationship between the police and the public has come into existence for a long period of time. The main basis for the relationship of the police and public, as it subsists today, is the Indian Police Act of 1861, which was legislated as a result of the approvals made by the Indian Police Commission of 1860. The original recommendations were carved down for political reasons as an outcome of a conspiracy. Consideration of the economy over-looked the interest of the general public and police force was only provided for the elitist section of society, especially in the big and metropolitan cities.

In the course, the weaker population of the society was miserably neglected. Before the formation of the laws on the conduct of the police, their behaviour used to be harsh beyond imagination. They used to behave rudely and arrogantly with the individuals. This scenario used to exist in the pre-partition period. Nowadays due to strict action and development of the various laws for the protection of the basic Human Rights of the citizens, the behaviour and attitude of the police officers have changed and they have started to respect it. But the impression from the past still lingers on and the public has created this image of hatred and discourteous attitude towards the police officers.

This distrust has emerged on the account of the sporadic delays in the registration of the cases and the punitive treatment that was given to the complaints and suspects. However, it can be said that the public could be held accountable for this distrust and their own outlook was rather detrimental and biased against the police personnel. There was no trust and assurance between the public and the police. The roots of suspicion finds its existence from the distant past when the police officers were deliberated to be a tool of coercion. Every act of the police was seen with suspicion. The main causes of distrust can be said are mostly historical.

Defining relationship in metropolitan areas

As stated above, giving a proper definition to describe the relationship of police with the public is a difficult task. The relationship between them is really subjective and depends on the circumstances of each event. It also depends on the mentality of the citizens as to how they perceive the work of policemen. People are against the police or their work because they don’t tend to understand the various complexities which are involved in the whole process from registering the crime with the police to the final prosecution of the case. This results in the weakness of the relationship between both parties which in turn affects the function of policing.

Nowadays, the crime rate has been increasing in our country and as a result, the work of the police has also increased twofold. The rate of crime has increased in metropolitan cities due to many reasons like the wealthy population, slow connectivity to the police, etc. Sometimes the interest of the general public is overlooked and services are provided only to the elitist section of the society. Therefore there is a need to define certain challenges that are being faced by the police in the form of the political interference for the enforcement of the rights of and relationship with a weaker section of the society. Let’s discuss these aspects for the purpose of defining a relationship between the police and the public in relation to the metropolitan areas.

Firstly, there is a requirement to state the challenge which is being faced by the police officers in such metropolitan areas because of the political pressures. Police are responsible for maintaining the law and order in society. Their job sometimes includes catching hardened and dangerous criminals. The police play a significant role in the protection of the fabric of human societies. A study of the development of the human societies displays that slowly evolving out of the ‘state of nature; the man had to take steps for the formation of some sort of government and the government thus formed had to frame rules, laws, and regulations for stimulating the welfare of the people and limiting the activities of the lawless features. The police is that agency which helps in enforcement of the laws and maintenance of peace and order in the society, done through the government. But political interference can act as one of the challenges in performing the functions, especially in the metropolitan areas, where the intensity of such interference is more.

(a) Political interference in police work

The occurrences of political interference seem to have anticipated larger scope mostly after the year 1967 when the sustained stability of the elected government in some areas got bothered and the time of political instability started. Due to increased political interference, there was a split of the police personnel into diverse factions and groups with different political leanings. The police personnel which does not stay outside politics but is persistently subjected to influences and burdens originating within the system from the police personnel who have politicized themselves, will in turn extremely interrupt the solidity of the elected political leadership in the state itself and thus cause serious damage to the democracy of our nation. This threat has to be comprehended with equal significance and concern by the police as well as by the politicians.

(b) Relationship of weaker section and police

Our nation has numerous minorities and weaker sections in the society who have been deprived of their basic needs of livelihood and social esteem. Surviving in the big and metropolitan cities is not easy for them especially when everyone is thriving to earn a livelihood for themselves. This results in the increasing crime rate, especially by these people. Sometimes the political parties do interfere and urge them to go for the communal riots for some amount of money. The police, in turn, have to use violence in order to curb the riots. This definitely affects the relationship between the weaker section of the society and police as police personnel don’t take the complaints registered by them seriously and in turn, the individuals are drawn towards the thinking that police are not dedicated in their services towards their section of the society. Another point of view in this can be that sometimes the police officers prioritize the complaints and grievances of the elite section of the society and tend to ignore the complaints of the Minority or weaker class. This is going to affect the relationship and it does not matter whether you reside in the rural areas or the Metropolitan areas.

(c) Human rights and police

Every individual in this world has the right to some basic and universal rights like the right to live, freedom of speech and expression, human rights, etc. But the instances in history show that many of them have been deprived of these rights due to various social and political pressures and influences. Many times the police, who have been responsible for maintaining peace and order in society violate the basic rights every individual has. There have been a lot of complaints about the violation of Human Rights especially by the hands of the police in custody. They sometimes don’t understand that they are violating the basic Human Rights of the people, for whose protection and welfare, their service has been created and maintained. Every person has the basic Human Rights to register their complaints with the police officers however they have been denied the registration of the complaints as and when they report it because due to the increasing number of crimes in the big metropolitan cities, the police officers have a lot of pressure to solve all the crimes and carry out the investigation.

It’s very obvious in our country that police have not been provided with enough resources to tackle all the cases which have been registered with them and as a result, they end up avoiding and not registering the complaints of many individuals. However, there is a need to understand that the police officers have to uphold the basic Human Rights of the individuals and acknowledge it as they are the ones who are responsible for serving the people of the society. Also, the police officers should avoid using the harsh techniques to take the truth out of any suspect as by using the custodial violence, they are violating the basic Human Rights of the individuals. Their duty is to respect and protect Human Rights rather than violating it.

Conclusion and suggestions

Although the police personnel have either presumed or have been allocated responsibility to deal with many compound social problems, it would be really irrational of us to think that they have the capacity to solve the cases alone without any help from the community. In reality, the police officers can provide restricted dedicated attention to the most crucial problems, usually, in a crisis, reactive fashion real solutions require much bigger efforts and determinations by many sections of the community. Even effective crisis retorts often require the participation of non-police resources. In the turn of citizens’ involvement, public relations, and community associations activities, provide a certain contrast. It should be well understood that the police cannot carry all the functions effectively such as investigation, authentic detection, etc. This does not mean that the public should lose their hope in the functions which are being carried out by the police. The social order of our nation is changing, many areas we find an agitated, moving, and ever-growing population, which results in new strains, new struggles as well as new demands. In contradiction of this background, the policemen of our country have the remarkable responsibilities; on the one hand, to identify the quality of man without any concerns in relation to caste, creed as well as religion, and on the other hand, individuals are required to do their respective part to destroy the image that the police are the autocrats of the rights of minority groups or weaker section of the society.


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