February 27, 2023
Police uniform is introduced for a purpose. Firstly, the person wearing it feels the dignity and sanctity of the position. Secondly and pertinently, it enables the common man, the stakeholders to identify the police person. As I understand, the police are always required to wear the uniform while on duty except when their nature of the job requires confidentiality. For example, police working for intelligence Dept or when police are involved in rescue operations in abduction cases or during Lokayukta raids etc. have an exemption to be in plain clothes.
However, recently when I visited a specialized Police station in Mangalore on at least two occasions, I found that the inspector and many other staff such as head constable and ASI were in civil dress.
Initially I thought the head constable with whom I was dealing with the case to be a clerk because he was in civil dress. Then I saw few more sitting nearby in plain clothes. I did not dare to ask them about their designation lest it should offend them. A little while later, I enquired with another person in plain clothes walking out of the police station and he informed me that the person I was dealing with was head constable.
Now my question is if a common man like me is abused verbally or physically by a police person, how would I be able to identify him in the first place, leave alone reporting the crime. Furthermore, how would I know for sure that he is indeed a policeman and not an outsider. It is well known fact that a police station receives a lot of visitors such as plaintiffs, accused, their counsels and sometimes the so called ‘agents’. If the policemen wear neither the uniform nor their identity cards, the visitors will be flummoxed with the people they see around at the station.
Although courts have permitted public to video record decently in public places including Govt offices for the purpose of self- defense, generally police forbid the public from doing that. Further I doubt if there are CCTVs in all police stations and even if there are, if they are always in working condition. In such a scenario, if police are not wearing the uniform, it is not favorable to the safety and security of the common man.
I remember how we as school students used to be sent home for the failure to turn up in uniform. Further as uniform helps to instill a sense of discipline and uniformity, it helps the police to perform effectively. Furthermore, while boosting the self-esteem of the police wearing the uniform. It can also create a sense of fear in the criminals. It can also help prevent the presence of agents in police stations as it would be easier to distinguish between police and agents.
Despite so many benefits of uniform, why do police men sometimes hesitate to wear the uniform? Perhaps they are not given enough pairs of uniform and if they are given limited number of pairs getting them washed and dried during the rainy season is an uphill task. Therefore, it is important that the police are given enough pairs of uniform. In the court of law, an advocate cannot appear before the judge without the uniform. While travelling in flights, airhostess and cabin crew cannot be in plain clothes. Doctors and nurses are always required to be in uniform while on duty. Therefore, is it not fair that police ensure that they are in uniform always while on duty? In fact, a judgement from the Kerala High court reiterates that police are required to wear uniform while on duty.
Police are generally seen in uniform if they are performing their duty outside the police station. On the flipside, there are many senior police officers who are most often seen in uniform both in their offices and in public.
Generally police work in stressful situations and work round the clock with few holidays. There are numerous instances where we have seen the human side of police in reaching out to the people in distress. At the same time there have been reports about the police taking undue advantage of their position abusing the public and fleecing them. Sometimes there are allegations of corruption against the police. However, before all of it can be addressed, it’s crucial that police department ensures that police wear uniform always while on duty.