Marketing lessons for police
Reviewed by Rajbir Deswal

Policing: Reinvention Strategies in
a Marketing Framework
By Rohit Choudhary.
Sage. Pages XX+306. Rs 395.

IN a popular Bollywood flick, the entire rhetoric of materialistic possessions by Amitabh Bachchan comes crashing when juxtaposed with brother Shashi Kapoor’s matching them all with their mother, asserting, "Mere paas Ma hai?" Apart from the physical self, the mother here carries her affection, compassion, care, concerns, besides bearing and rearing. By the same token, the police service seems to measure up to being quantified in terms of value, if you believe author Rohit Choudhary, an IPS officer of Punjab. For the police to be saleable to people at large, it has to be dependable and deliverable; accessible and accountable; and satisfying and suitable.

The police service can be marketed like any other commodity with a definite business plan despite intangible manifestations of human dispositions that can be attributed to their not-so-conducive behavior. There exist compliers and violators both. Rohit Choudhary’s recommendations inter alia include fundamental transformation of systems and organisations, ensuring efficiency, effectiveness, adaptability and innovation, with toppings like incentives and accountability added to the marketability of police.

The private sector management concerns largely involve citizen-focused service, performance management, balanced scorecard, strategy map and an ingrained and imbibed inclination to change while vying with other competitors. Factors that go against marketing the police service are its intangibility, heterogeneity and inseparability since for a product you can always have a better value substitute. The crux of Choudhary’s suggestions lies in consumer satisfaction when in a ‘glocal’ (global + local) environment, citizens as customers of police service assert their rights of having best value for their money paid as tax.

For police to sell like merchandise, the author embarks on plans to improve its organisational culture incorporating changes in the police delivery scenario through (i) SWOT—strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats besides (ii) Eight P’s—people, products, price, promotion, pace, process, place and policies. A roadmap for the marketing plan that promises superior value, builds customer relationship and creates customer delight is the hallmark of the book.

Quoting extensively from the police commission recommendations and other resource material drawn from very renowned subject matter specialists on police and policing, the author admits that the police in India is "underpaid, undermanned overworked, demoralised and publicly despised". He presents a comparative study of police systems in the UK, US, Japan, Singapore, China, Korea, Ireland, Canada, etc.

With lack of functional autonomy in pursuing investigations, the police in India is still imbued with their ruler supportive ethic. Old laws and procedures, large number of new legislations (with no public consensus), accusatorial system of criminal trials, presumption of innocence and burden of proof, distrust of the police and a very poor conviction rate, add up to make the police helpless, inefficient and unworthy in social audit.

"Nobel cause corruption" which is almost institutionalised in the police functioning and encourages padding, planting and fabrication of evidence to ensure conviction also does not do any good to the service delivery system, the author believes.

The rank and file in the police in India deserves to be empowered with more of decentralisation of powers, less of regimental hierarchical steel frame and a participatory accountability. The sub-culture in police needs to be evolved to the level where even the lowest ranking foot soldier has a feeling of alignment and belongingness. "Happiness Model" is suggested to ensure community policing with human resource development within the organisation.

Continuous correctional and developmental appraisal is the key to building up human resource. Police training needs to shun pedagogy systems, and adopt andragogy model—a self-directed learning style. The quality of leadership in the police should be "each one serves and leads". "Management by walking around" ensures knowing on ground difficulties.

The police in India needs to come alive to customer needs by "hearing citizens voices" roping in community empowerment through pro-active and collaborative policing rather than being reactive. The conservative police culture has a rigid and para-military structure, which is not amenable to change.

Reducing cost by making marginal adjustment in budgets, spreading costs to other authorities for special police forces, enlisting self-help from citizens, out sourcing, retention of revenue generating areas will surely help. Accumulating, concentrating, complementing and recovering the resources would sustain the police in having a systematic approach to develop, acquire, accumulate and innovate. Effectiveness roped in by redressal of public grievances and streamlining cross-agency processes is also worth taking care of.

While advocating all kinds of technological support, the author dares to reduce political interference by putting in place regulatory bodies for the police. An open policy, integrating involvement of stakeholders to prioritise police tasks will help. The police also needs to have a media policy involving maintaining public relations with a police-public interface. In some countries, participative policing is the norm.

The book, recommending identification of internal issues and external influences with the focus on customer satisfaction, high performance and new-age entrepreneurial demands of the business, should be the ‘Bible’ for every policeman besides being a very well-documented research treatise.