India’s new age of policing to improve women’s safety

"The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence — it is to act with yesterday’s logic" - Peter Drucker

By Pankaj Khurana, Partner PwC India, and Jyoti Bhasin, Senior Manager, PwC India
(PwC India Senior Consultant Coneenika Choudhuri contributed to this article)

As society’s and government’s expectations of law enforcement are increasing, police departments around the world are facing greater demands to adopt new ways of operating to bolster their effectiveness. Police organisations must rapidly innovate and implement new strategies to keep citizens safe and remain a step ahead of ever-evolving criminal behavior.

This is especially true when it comes to tackling gendered crime — or, more specifically, crimes against women — in many parts of the world. India, the second most populous country in the world, has faced specific challenges in tackling gendered crime. We think India can draw on some of the innovative and replicable measures that have been implemented in other countries to enhance measures taken to better protect their female populations. 

Diversity in policing

Police forces are supposed to mirror the community they serve. But in many instances, the demographics of police forces don’t adequately represent the diversity of the societies in which they work. And police misconduct towards minorities remains a recurrent topic in public discussion.

African Americans were 13.4% of the population in the United States in 2018, and, as of 2016, comprise 13.0% of the country’s police officers, while women, who are 50.8% of the population, comprise just of 12.1% of U.S. police officers. With the introduction of gender diversity targets by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australia’s females in police stand at an encouraging 35%, but similar proportionality cannot be claimed for aboriginals. Aboriginals comprise of 2.8% of the Australian population, but stand at 1.6% of the police officers. In India, despite the fact that the government has announced that it is reserving 33% of police force positions for women, India’s police force is on average only 7.28% female. Although scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes (defined as specific ethnic groups in the Constitution of India) amount to 66.2%, the representation of these groups in the police force stands at 36.21%. Though police strength continued to decline in Canada, women comprised of 21% of police. And while visible minorities and aboriginals are 22.6% and 4.9% of Canada’s population, respectively, they account for 8.4% and 5.4% of Canadian police.

This table provides a glimpse into diversity, represented by gender, race or ethnicity, in police forces worldwide.

Recognizing the fact that equity, diversity, and inclusion are essential to the operations and the effectiveness of law enforcement organisations, police forces around the world have instituted measures to embrace diversity — in organisational structures, in decision-making processes and in the way they work and communicate. Examples of such measures include the Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2016–2026 in Australia and the United States Capitol Police’s Office of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action (IDEA).

There is good empirical reason for police forces to diversify. A study by Sounman Hong, Associate Professor at Yonsei University, shows how increasing the number of racial minority officers reduces a police force’s use of racial profiling and the number of complaints by minority groups — which in turns leads to a decline in the number of complaints upheld per officer. Continuous improvement in policing requires the leveraging of talents and resources of diverse community groups.

 

Gendered crime

Global estimates published by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that about one in three (35%) women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

In 2016, the global crime rate of female homicide was estimated at 2.3 per 100,000 females. While in the United States and England and Wales, 1.42% and 2.01% of crimes registered were against women, respectively, the rate in India stands much higher, at 7.02% (which is similar to the Asian average of 6.67%).

Violence against women has many causes. But in India it can largely be attributed to gender-centered bias and inequality, coupled with a lack of opportunities for women to pursue education and a consequent lack of economic and social participation.

Some progress is being made, especially in areas such as female participation in the labor force. The chart illustrates that today’s rate of female labor force participation is indeed significantly higher now than it was three decades ago in the majority of countries globally and across all income levels. But this positive change also brings forth a pressing need to ensure the safety of women, both in the workplace and in transit to and from work. The relatively low ratio of female police officers in most police forces exacerbates this challenge. India, as noted above, has one of the lowest ratios of female police officers.

Building the future workforce: The future is female

In PwC’s 2018 report “Policing in a networked world,” we mapped out six responses for police departments around the world to undertake to enable effective action, based on what we were hearing and learning from police leaders we interviewed. One of these responses is “building the workforce of the future,” which recognises that “sworn police officers are still the backbone of a police organisation…[and therefore] must reflect the demographic and ethnic makeup of the society in which they serve.”

There is still much to be done to address diversity in policing. Globally, women make up less than 35% of police personnel. As noted, according to the Data on Police Organizations report, published in 2017 by the Bureau of Police Research and Development in India, women comprise only 7.28% of the total Indian police force.

On the scale of diversity and female representation within law enforcement, and in comparison with the world’s most equipped police organisations, India has a long way to go. But it is working hard to catch up.

Aligning local and national capability

Change needs leadership from the top and a meaningful response to these complex challenges. For the best results it is essential to prioritise and position resources to fight crime at the local, national and international levels.

To advance the need to rebalance policing towards a more gender-equitable (and gender-sensitive) workforce, the Indian government has issued orders for its Union territories to reserve 33% of positions for women and has advised India’s 29 states to pursue legislative action on this issue. As a result, a number of central and state police organisations have instituted women-only battalions and police stations, respectively. But newer ways to encourage and attract more women to the field of police work are still needed.

In a welcome effort to focus more attention and resources on the safety of women, the government of India also established the Women Safety Division in May 2018, within the Ministry of Home Affairs. This division has the mandate to develop integrated and harmonized initiatives to ensure the security and safety of women. Two examples demonstrate this response: First, there is the newly created Emergency Response Support System (ERSS), which is a nationwide 24/7 emergency support line for anyone in distress. The underlying system is equipped with location-based services and integrated with computer-aided dispatch, police vans equipped with mobile data terminals and one-stop centres for women. The accompanying “112 India mobile app” allows women and children exclusive access to a SHOUT feature, which in addition to connecting them to the ERSS, alerts registered volunteers in the vicinity to provide more immediate assistance.  

Second, India’s Safe City Projects have provided a much-needed focus in urban areas where technology plays an important role. This involves enhanced surveillance, strengthening of civic amenities through the use of infrastructure, technology and behavior change programs, panic buttons on public transport and “she toilets” (dedicated restrooms for women) and a “women’s desk” in all police stations.

These examples show the need for agility, innovation and community-sensitive policing: all are essential levers of modern, diverse police organisations. Indeed, it is right that women, who comprise 50% of the citizenry, are given consideration in all aspects of policing, from its workforce mix to case staffing and technology decisions. Such a shift to gender-focused and gender-sensitive policing has the potential to catalyze society towards an inclusive, aligned and growth-oriented socio-economic order.

Contact us

Pankaj Khurana

Partner, Government & Public Sector, PwC India

Jyoti Bhasin

Associate Director, Government Consulting, PwC India

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