The appointment of K. Servansingh in replacement of the outgoing Commissioner M. Nobin puts an end to speculations that had been doing the rounds about the successor to the former Commissioner, with the name of other Deputy Commissioners surfacing repeatedly. High responsibilities are not unfamiliar to the new Commissioner of Police, as he has been Commander of the Special Mobile Force prior to being assigned this present post. Both carry equally weighty responsibilities.
The Police Force forms part of the Civil Service, and it would be amiss on our part if we do not underline how the Civil Service in its entirety has risen to the challenge posed by the pandemic crisis. From the administrative cadres to those who perform all types of tasks, there was an efficient and coordinated mobilization of the staff of the essential services who did their duties with a sense of understanding of what was at stake, namely the health of the country which, by definition, meant it had to start with theirs. For, if the workforce of the essential services itself is disabled, then who is there to look after the rest of the population?
And so it is that all the so-called frontliners involved in first of all, saving lives – nurses, doctors, laboratory staff, ambulance drivers – and next, giving the vital support needed in ensuring the safe and clean environment to allow this to happen: the other hospital personnel, the cleaners and those responsible for waste collection and disposal, attendants at various service points are among those whose hard work and dedication helped to see the country through the confinement period. Helping and supplementing the guided efforts of the Civil Service were those who ensured food supplies and provisions, as well as the business sectors which repurposed to manufacture masks and sanitisers that conformed to the specified standards.
In parallel, a heavy onus was laid upon the Police Force which was tasked to make sure that the sanitary measures recommended were followed to the letter by the population. This was a critical component of the control strategy, and required deployment of policemen to oversee social distancing at the supermarkets in particular, something that the population was unfamiliar with, and about which there was apprehension of a breakdown of law and order. But the Police Force met this challenge and there were no major untoward incidents of note.
As we go back towards how things were before the lockdown, the old problems and unresolved issues pertaining to policing will come to the fore again. Over the years, and unfortunately so, there have been too many allegations of police brutality, high-handedness in dealing with the public whether it is at the police stations or on the road, impolite behaviour and rough talking, sexual harassment of policewomen by their peers or superiors, policemen being implicated in shady deals amongst other things.
The new Commissioner of Police therefore assumes responsibilities at a time when there is much expectation on the part of the public about ‘sanitising’ the process of maintaining law and order, and a restoration of the image of the Police. For this, he will need the support of the political establishment at the highest level, but crucially of course that of the Police Force itself, forging a relationship of trust and confidence, and pride in the profession as it fulfils its duties vis-à-vis the nation. Having been a soldier, he knows the meaning of discipline and honour, and will no doubt place a high premium on inculcating them and other values that are relevant to the maintenance of the safety and security of the country and will also be crucial to the success of his new mission. All this to be done while abiding by the principles of human rights and in the respect and dignity of the individual.
* Published in print edition on 9 June 2020