What is Friends of Police service?
In Tamil Nadu, Friends of Police is barred over the alleged role in Sathankulam custodial deaths. The issue was that after allegations were made about the involvement of the Friends of Police in the custodial deaths of a father and son at Sathankulam. An order has been issued revoking the initiative to use it across the state.
What is Friends of Police (FOP)?
Friends of Police movement is a Community Policing initiative and a Joint Government Organisation (JGO) with a goal to bring police and public closer. The movement was started in 1993 in Ramanathapuram (Ramnad) District, Tamil Nadu by Mr. Prateep V.Philip I.P.S when he was servicing as Superintendent of the Police.
It is estimated that there are around 4,000 active Friends of Police members in police stations across Tamil Nadu.
According to an official, "Volunteers can apply, and there are minimum criteria like no political affiliation or criminal background, etc. Those who apply are mostly rural youth from poor backgrounds. It is not the salary but the proximity to police that is an attraction. Some with criminal tendencies take advantage of favourable environment in the system."
The concept of FOP was born by a question -how can we (police) share power with the people? Therefore FOP emerges from the community policing philosophy, even it goes beyond community policing. Let us tell you that when the FOP movement was started in 1993 and the impact it had on constables and members of the public was felt. Various individuals from across the District border wished to be considered for the FOP membership. In a Chief Minister's conference in a presentation, the FOP movement's model and its success led to the passing of GO extending it to bridge the Police-Public gap to the whole Tamil Nadu in 94. The movement is considered as the 'cornerstone' and then it spread its wings throughout the Nation and later it also received global recognition.
What is the role/work of Friends of Police?
Let us tell you that FOP helps to promote crime awareness among the people and enables the prevention of crimes.
- In the working of police, it imparts fairness, transparency, and impartiality.
- FOP also helps police in restoring the lost faith of the public in police.
We can say that the concept is holistic and proactive and also act as a tool to transform the image of the police, strengthen the force and create attitudinal changes both within the force and among the public.
Basically FOP movement to-day constitutes the thrust towards humanization and socialization of the police force, as it is sharing power with ordinary citizens taking off from our Preamble to the Constitution 'We the People'.
What is Community Policing?
As we know that the police are the white blood corpuscles of the body politic all over the globe. Various factors are there which generate challenges to the police force including violence, increasing crime, international terrorism, narcotics, smuggling, assassination of national leaders, bombing of crowd centers in different states, etc.
Despite these challenges police all the time remains on their duty and work for our safety. In every nation/state the police force practically suffers a problem of not just "no image" or "low image" situation, also a highly negative image among the public at large, in media or in minds of the leaders, etc. Basically, lack of mutual trust, respect, and confidence between the law using public and law enforcing police prevails. Sometimes the gulf between the police and the public hampers and hinders the functioning of the police and face various types of challenges.
The main principle behind the Community Policing is 'A policeman is a citizen with uniform and a citizen is a policeman without uniform'.
It helps in reducing the trust deficit among the public for the police because it requires the police to work with the community for prevention and detection of crime, maintenance of public order, and resolving local conflicts, with the aim of providing a better quality of life and sense of security. The main objective of any Community policing effort is when the public begins to perceive the police as Friends of public.
What are the criteria to become FOP?
Any public can become an FOP who is not involved in any civil or criminal case. To become a member, he or she has to send a letter to the Superintendent of Police giving his name, age, and address and pledging his friendship. After verifying the antecedent of the applicants through the Special Branch and the local police stations, the chief of the police will admit them as FOPs.
- The age group for FOP should be above eighteen years.
- He or she for FOP should have completed their tenth standard.
- He or she for FOP should not involve in political activities.
- FOP should not have any criminal history.
- He or she for FOP should be in a position to allot time to involve in public service.
- FOP should be in a position to maintain good relations with the police personnel and the public.
- FOP should have a contact relationship with the nodal officers of their police district.
- FOP should know that it is a voluntary movement and therefore should not expect any monetary benefits for their services wither from the police or from the public.
- They should be in a position to identify the problems in their locality via youngsters, senior citizens, women, etc.
- They also should be in a position to generate awareness of the existence of the FOP movement to the public.
Friends of Police: DO's and DON'TS
As per friendsofpolice.org below, we are providing FOPs DO's and DON'TS
Follow safety and Traffic rules
Lend a helping hand
Follow the principles of Honesty, Punctuality, and dedication
Assist the Police in preventing crime
Assist the Police in maintaining law and order
Assist the Police in Traffic regulations
Give useful suggestions to solve local problems
Protect your own property
Help create awareness
Help the needy
Be aware of your rights and duties
Be available for service
Don't go to the police station with a recommendation.
Don't get involved in anything unlawful.
Don't be party to any dispute.
Don't personally criticize any individual Police officer
Don't openly fight anti-social elements.
Don't practice any bad habit.
Don't get involved in any political activity
Don't misuse your status as FOP
Don't be involved in the collection of funds or donations
As FOP, don't be inactive but live up to the ideals and ideas of FOP.
At last, let us have a look at the issue of Friends of Police in Tamil Nadu. What happened there?
The Friends of Police services have been revoked in Tamil Nadu. Across the State, Senior police officers have instructed police stations to recall the identity cards that were given to the FOPs and also not to engage the volunteers in any police-related activities. This move was followed by controversy over FOP volunteers being engaged to beat P. Jeyaraj and his son J. Bennicks in the Sathankulam police station on 19 June, 2020 night. They were arrested for violating the COVID-19 lockdown conditions and preventing the police from discharging their duty.
The police have arrested five officers including one inspector and two-sub-inspectors till now. Also, the government has transferred all the other officers posted at Sathankulam station. Also, there are several eyewitnesses who told that on that night FOP volunteers also took an active part in assaulting Jayaraj and Bennix at the station. It is expected that CBI will take over the probe, following a recommendation from the state.
So now you may have understood about the Friends of Police service, their role, function, and when it was established.