Professor, National Law University, Delhi
Besides the UP Government’s recent proposal to set up a forensic and police university with an investment of Rs 350 crore, the announcement of the proposal to establish a National Police University (NPU) by Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy and the decision of the Union Home Ministry to make police training a subject in the undergraduate curriculum of universities may be a welcome step, but it does not inspire enough confidence on account of internal inconsistencies in these ideas.
The idea of a police university was conceived with the establishment of such universities in Gujarat, Jodhpur and Ranchi. It was inspired by the experiences of other countries, too. A prominent example in this regard is Korean National Police University (KNPU). For several reasons, the idea of a police university, including the NPU, does not seem to be taking off. Comprehensive thinking is required to understand why the existing police universities, including the so-called think tank — Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) — have been largely unable to promote excellence in policing.
These universities were created to become think tanks and centres for promoting excellence in policing. This notion emerged from a unique need which the police academies were unable to satisfy. This definitive distinction needs to be understood. Admittedly, policing as a professional practice has been unable to grow like other professions, namely, medical or engineering. For the medical and engineering professions, there are universities/institutions that ensure ‘education’ in these areas before the incumbents take up practice.
Curiously, there are no institutions in the country which impart ‘police education’ to newly inducted personnel. Ideally speaking, police education must precede police training. All professional practices, including medical and engineering, look up to their domain knowledge for guidance on any complex questions. In the case of police practices though, the domain knowledge is conspicuous only in its absence.
An ideal model would be where these universities, like other professional institutions, inculcate a strong knowledge base in newly recruited police personnel followed by their stint in training academies for physical training. Currently, however, the lack of a clear vision and direction plagues these universities. They offer only a handful of special courses to the police officers, similar to regular police academies.
Additionally, these universities admit students for courses like criminology and law police administration. This idea is not completely objectionable. No thought, however, has been given to exploring the nexus between the courses and placement within police organisations. Raksha Shakti University (RSU) provides additional weightage to the degree/diploma holders from the university in the state police recruitment examinations. Nevertheless, in contrast to direct recruitment, weightage in recruitment is still insufficient.
The primary beneficiaries of these universities ought to be future police personnel, but no clear arrangement and process exist in these universities for this purpose. Unlike RSU, the SPUPSCJ does not even provide for weightage in state police recruitment. Instead, it prominently advertises the placement of its students in various companies offering security solutions and other corporates. Consequently, the curricula are generalised, rather than being tailored towards enhancing the skills and knowledge of those who belong to or will join the police services.
The lateral induction of high-ranking police officers for the administration of these universities is structurally problematic. With non-academicians at their helm, the fate of the NPU and the aforementioned universities is sealed to be that of a sinking ship. These institutions need to be emancipated from the obsession of police officials heading the university. Only an academic professional of repute, assisted by carefully selected police officers, would be fit to lead these universities as vice-chancellors. The stellar performance of National Judicial Academy and the Delhi Judicial Academy is a testament to this fact.
The Raksha Shakti University Act of 2009 (RSU Act) provides for a director-general who must have served in state/Central police or in the military/paramilitary to head the university. Similarly, the Sardar Patel University of Police Security and Criminal Justice, Jodhpur Act of 2012 (SPUPSCJJ Act) prescribes for the position of the pro-vice-chancellor to be filled from amongst the serving senior police officers of the state. The current vice-chancellor of the SPUPSCJ belongs to the IPS cadre as well.
Suffering from the same syndrome as the National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science and BPRD, police universities fail to imbibe the traits of an institution where knowledge and practices grow on account of a multi-disciplinary research culture. Given the lack of academic leadership, these universities have the potential to become echo chambers, which, in practice, advocate status quo, as opposed to the intended objectives of research and innovation-based education in the police sciences. In their present form, the police universities lack the leadership to carry out this task. The case of not having specialist academicians as vice-chancellors by police universities has literally impeded their free-flowing expansion and especially their linkages with other universities.
As per the SPUPSCJJ Act, the object of the university is to integrate all branches of knowledge to focus on subjects relevant to security, law enforcement, criminal justice and public safety. The development of police sciences as a subject domain, however, requires that the focus should not be upon integration or creation of knowledge in the domains of criminal justice, public safety and security, but upon the creation of knowledge in the field of police sciences for application and ready reference by police officers. Dependence upon other domains in this regard runs the risk of generalised solutions to problems which can only be tackled by specialised solutions specific to a particular domain.
Given that the idea of an NPU is still at the stage of inception and development, the drawbacks of the prototypes can be rectified by taking the following into consideration: First, the administration of NPU should be academic while the primary beneficiaries of such education should be current or incumbent police officers, not vice-versa.
Secondly, the NPU should further the concept of police sciences as a specialised and professional domain, much like engineering and medicine.
Thirdly, the NPU should incentivise education of police officers in police sciences by linking diplomas, graduation, post-graduation and doctorate to their prospects of direct recruitment or promotions within the police services. Upgrading the National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science as an NPU is an idea worth trying. Many ideas floating independently in this domain need a convergence. Hopefully, the Union Home Ministry will pay heed to it.