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A Panel Discussion on "Tamilnadu Police - an Image Audit" was held on Saturday the 1st December 2001 at Hotel Palmgrove, Madras.  (Background note circulated during the event)

In a democracy three institutions viz. Media, Judiciary and Police are the ultimate safeguards for the common people.  It is necessary that these institutions perform their role effectively to bring confidence amongst the people.  It is also required that these institutions audit their image periodically amongst the public and other stakeholders. This would help these institutions to ascertain as to how they are being perceived and to take necessary corrective measures.  This concept of 'auditing the image' would apply to all the Organisations who are dealing directly with the people.

'Image Audit' is a tool by which the perception of various stakeholders is captured through random sampling.  It may be noted that the outcome of this audit is only "perception" and need not be "reality".  However such "Image Audit" will serve as a "forewarning" to the authorities of the concerned Institutions.  If there is a gap between "perception" and "reality", corrective measures may be taken using the various "communication tools". If the perception and reality coincides, it should be a fillip to perform better.

For the purpose of this Panel Discussion, we conducted an "Image Audit" amongst randomly selected 175 respondents ranging from very senior Administrators to the roadside hawkers.  The respondents were asked to give their perception, which is uppermost in their minds.  The responses were analysed.

The Audit  revealed the following:
  • On the positive side, the Investigation skills of the Police seems to be uppermost in the minds of the people
  • A large section of people perceive the Police either  as 'Not people friendly' or 'partially friendly'
  • On the negative side, corruption, political interference, arrogant behaviour and lethargy in handling the cases seem to be uppermost perceptions in the minds of the respondents.
  • While the middle class perceive the Police less aggressively, whereas it is not so in the case of urban poor. The poor section of the people feel that they are treated differently
  • Large number of respondents suggested that the Police should (1) evolve a system of Police-People interaction, (2) avoid political interference.  Suggestions have also come from the respondents that the Police Force should be autonomous.
These are all perceptions of cross section of sample and there may be variation between "reality" and "perception".    Normally these perceptions also are subject to fluctuation.  When the Police force catches a notorious criminal, suddenly due to media hype, perceptions may be more positive. On the other hand, if there is a "firing"  by policemen in a crowd or a illicit liquor tragedy or a custodial death  where few innocent people become victims, again due to media hype the perceptions may tilt towards negative side.  Since the study was made last week when there was not much of an activity, we consider the above perceptions to be balanced.

An interesting factor in this Audit is that when we tried to get the response from the field level Policemen, their perceptions on these issues, they were tight lipped.  Even the two or three responses that we got were of no consequence.

During this programme we will be addressing the issue of how the Police - Media - People partnership could be built for the best advantage of the society. In the course of the discussions, we will also be addressing the issues as to the role of people, media and the police in developing such partnership.

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