On The Frontline: The Indian Police Service
Kulwant K. Sarangal, a Senior Officer in the Indian Police Service, tells The Crowd Magazine about the challenge of managing crowds and enforcing the law during the pandemic….
As a Senior Police Officer in the Indian Police Service, I have 30 years of experience policing, controlling and managing crowds, intelligence, counter-terrorism, security and border management. Having planned and executed many crowd management events including political rallies, religious gatherings and the famous Kumbh Mela religious festival, I am now managing the police personnel department in one of the provinces in India.
Covid-19 has caused a crisis which has impacted all social, economic and public activities. It is particularly challenging for police forces all over the world as they are now required to restrict people’s movement; something that is unprecedented in a peace-time situation even if it is for a public health emergency. As all industry activity has closed down, we’ve found that interstate and international migrant workers are leaving their places of work in huge numbers. This has created two major challenges for the police to contend with.
First, we’ve had to communicate effectively across all levels of society to urge people to remain confined in their homes, as well as regulate the movement of migrant workers who still wish to travel. However, performing this work has led to increased exposure, with many police officers themselves falling victim to the virus. With Covid-19 being a novel virus; one that has never before been recorded, the complexity of managing the public throughout the crisis has only grown more difficult.
“Many officers are having to face defiant crowds who are hungry, thirsty, tired and stressed.”Kulwant L. Sarangal, Senior Police Officer, Indian Police Service
As a police force, we rely more on a situational response through our street-level officers. When responding to calls, the situations they would encounter were usually more or less similar on a day-to-day basis, enabling them to call on their experience quickly to deal with the task at hand. However, this is no longer the case. Many officers are having to face defiant crowds who are hungry, thirsty, tired and stressed. Whereas historically, police forces may have adopted harsher, heavy-handed tactics, we’ve adopted a different approach to managing the crowds and enforcing the lockdown orders.
There is a greater appreciation for the fact that apart from being a public health emergency, Covid-19 is also a social and economic problem for humanity, therefore requiring a humane response. In addition to our usual services, our officers are also performing non-policing functions including distributing food to people, creating awareness in the community and celebrating the birthdays of senior citizens who are currently living under lockdown conditions. It was essential that the police adapted and responded to the current crisis in a professional manner.
Kulwant K. Sarangal, Senior Police Officer for the Indian Police Service
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