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The need for community policing was felt by the community as well as police during post-terrorism in Punjab. In fact it was felt more by the police as the presence of a large number of policemen not only gave the force high visibility but also allowed the people frequent contact with the police.

For this, strategies were designed to work in partnership with the people to de-legitimise the use of violence. Further, it was felt that democratic methods like dialogue negotiations, elections etc., are potent instrument for reducing hostility and antagonism; Policing a violent conflict invariable thwarts democratic initiatives. The temptation has been always to restore peace and order even at the expense of violating law.

Therefore, the main focus of police reforms in Punjab was to involve the community for its improved service delivery and containment of crime. The emphasis thus shifted from an enforcement perspective targeting community as potential criminals to crime prevention with community participation.

The practical explorations and experimentation with various models of community policing was initiated in 2000 by the Institute for Development and Communication (IDC) along with the active involvement of the police establishment in post-terrorism in Punjab. These explorations reinforced the understanding that community-policing can neither be a special programme or set of schemes for promoting community-police interaction for sharing of information, instead has to be policing per se. In other words, community-policing cannot merely be policing for the community e.g. single window services, enforcement of law, crime detection, etc.

Community policing is not merely a single window service. It is also not to use community merely as an additional force, for instance, managing traffic or act as informers etc. Community policing is not a project or a problem solving technique. Neither is it an oversight, supportive mechanism of existing policing and separate from regular policing. It is not a co-option strategy of members of community by recruiting them as volunteers and is not an ad-hoc basket of schemes.

Community policing experiment Saanjh is integral to policing. It is an institutionalised integrative approach responsive to diversity of gender, caste, class and religions. It is a partnership between the police, members of community and other stakeholders for crime prevention, safety and security as well as delivery of justice. Partnership is neither a strategy nor tactics, but an approach to policing. In other words, community policing is to do policing along with the community. It is a collaborative interactive relationship between the community and the police. It leads to empowerment of both the police and the community for crime prevention and delivery of justice.

Community policing centres are autonomous registered societies collectively managed by representatives of the community and police functionaries. It provides citizens dignified access to police related services and a forum to implement community oriented programmes. It provides space for police-community partnership in crime prevention, grievance redress, victim assistance and information related to law, rules and procedures, civic rights and duties. It is an institutionalised effort to integrate community policing with the existing policing system. It has a built-in mechanism of coordination with civil, judicial and non-government organisations. It is a six-tier system of policing in partnership with the community, managed through committees having representatives of the civil society, specialists, NGOs, police functionaries and the civil administration.

This is indeed a unique experiment, built around common ownership of both, the people and the police. It could not have been achieved without political consensus that wanted to build such a structure in order to prevent re occurrence of violence. This is a beginning in the right direction, requiring continuous efforts to make it sustainable.

Dr. Pramod Kumar, Chairperson, Punjab Governance Reforms Commission (PGRC)
and Director, Institute for Development and Communication (IDC)

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