civil society integral or marginal to police reforms n.
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Civil Society: Integral or marginal to police reforms . Patricia Mukhim. What is civil society. Too many definitions; general vagueness about roles

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what is civil society
What is civil society
  • Too many definitions; general vagueness about roles
  • Non-state agency (NGOs), non-political voluntary associations of people. Human rights NGOs/ activists, media, teachers’ assns etc. A partnership of all the above on any issue
How vibrant is civil society? How visible?
  • 85% of our collective population live in villages. Their concerns today- Roti, kapda, makan, sarak, bijli, pani, land issues,
  • Even if aware of bad policing and need for better one - the priority is 7th or 8th in their list
  • Rural population have collectives but these are essentially reactive, fragmented, weak, manipulated by political forces.
Visible in urban centres. More organized, focused on specific roles, articulate, powerful, have the appropriate bargaining tools. (Eg CHRI)
  • Is civil society across the region literate or illiterate,/ conscious or unconscious, aware or unaware involved or uninvolved about issues of police reforms.
Police Reforms:
  • Is it an urgency across the regions?
  • Is it an urgency only for a small group that understands the role of police. (Eg the groups across this room).
  • How much engagement between people in this room and the large faceless majority of people whose involvement is imperative to trigger the demand for police reforms
General argument - need to legislate police reforms.
  • But argument was that politicians would only rally round the issue if pressured by their constituents.
  • How do we take these concerns to every corner of our countries so that pressure is created?
  • What strategies to adopt for generating public consciousness and CS initiatives.
Mention made of media as a powerful tool.
  • How to sustain media interest on police reforms?
  • CS needs imaginative ideas to engage media
  • Media interested in the doing part more than the thinking and planning part.
  • What novel ideas in PR will engage the media.
Some states of India initiated police reforms
  • Recommendations submitted but have gathered dust
  • Why? Because that is not a priority with all legislators.
  • Not a priority with legislators because not a priority for constituents.
Demands for Police reforms can only come from civil society that:
  • Is informed about what policing or good, democratic policing entails
  • Is aware and educated about current ailments in policing
  • Is willing to engage on a sustained basis to push for reforms
  • Is free and fearless in pursuit of its goals
  • Can pursue goals in a non-threatening
  • democratic space (ideally)
Why CS is integral to police reforms?
  • Police part and parcel of society. Their behaviour directly affects society on a daily basis.
  • If CS will not own the police someone else will
  • Need to wrest ownership from undesirable elements that tend to abuse the police
  • CS needs to be responsible custodian of police
  • Unless police reforms, CS will bear the brunt of their current behaviour
CS has expectations from police. How do these expectations (1) get articulated (2) are seriously discussed and pushed forward (3) get implemented
  • In democracy, people speak through their representatives. This is only partially true today
  • CS needs to engage at two levels (1) create public pressure for police reforms (2) engage local elected representatives on the issue.
What type of civil society can bring about police reforms that are desirable?
  • There are types and types of civil societies.
  • Not all civil society is informed about legal rights. Not all civil society is pro-reforms.
In regions of conflict people tend to condone police brutalities and encounter deaths.
  • Condemn ‘soft policing’.
  • Criticize policemen who are gentlemen
  • In conflict areas people have their own definition of policing. Is this type of CS the kind that could bring about police reforms.
Civil society advocates for a variety of policy changes new legislations all aimed towards public good.
  • Police expected to enforce these legislations. Police resources get spread too thinly.
  • Hence when civil society proposes legislations they must also spell out how the legislations can be implemented and enforced and by whom
Law keeping demands diverse awareness about human behaviour
  • CS has the clout to set local priorities
  • CS the laboratory where the police can test and refine ideas and sharpen its effectiveness.
  • CS provides the social capital and resources that police can tap from.
  • Crime reduction, crime prevention and problem solving can come from social interaction between police and CS
Interface with CS does not blunt effectiveness of police or soften them.
  • Does not translate into a ‘hug a thug’ theory. Nor does it turn police work into social work.
  • Sometimes civil society lacks expertise to understand the essence of policing. Hence expectations from police unrealistic.
  • Interface with police a good training ground for CS on dilemma of policing in today’s context.
Civil society needs to clearly understand role of police in criminal justice system before they can propose reforms and hold police accountable.
Policing a dynamic process.
  • Police need to constantly reinvent to be effective.
  • Without police reforms ennui sets in, no growth, no dynamism, frustration, no system of rewards, only punishment.
  • If societal norms, behaviour and interface has changed radically after liberalization. If crime too has taken a new form (serial killings) can police afford to behave like a 19th century force running after the thugs.
Policing roles need to change and CS alone can push for these changes.
  • Constant feedback from CS and engagement with it, which is not necessarily adversarial is imperative
  • Role of CS like CHRI is too important in police reforms. Need replicable strategies and a wider spread.