Thursday, January 27, 2022

Body shaming of policemen wrong but why can’t we have regular fitness tests for police like armed forces?

A physical test is mandatory to enter service. But does that mean the recruited police official will stay fit physically and by extension fit for duty till the time he/she retires?

Written by Kanishka Singh | New Delhi |
February 22, 2017 4:28:08 pm
shobhaa-de-mumbai-police-759 Author and Columnist Shobha De

Author and columnist Shobha De’s gaffe about body shaming an ‘unfit police officer’ she mistook for being from Mumbai police earned her the ire of social media users. One could argue that the flak was warranted as the criticism was meted out in a distasteful manner. Social media blurs lines between banter and bullying/shaming/trolling and naturally many indulge in both sides of the arguments.

The situation, however, derives from a fundamental flaw in the way police functions. Physical fitness is one of the qualifying criterion for individuals intending to join the police force. A physical test is mandatory to enter service. But does that mean the recruited police official will stay fit physically and by extension fit for duty till the time he/she retires? It can’t be ensured unless regular fitness tests are held for a policeman to be called fit for duty.

Mumbai Police clarified that the person shown in the picture doesn’t belong to their force. But, the image shows the reality of our police forces. The fact is there are no regular mandatory fitness tests for continuation of service in police forces, unlike in the armed forces. Armed forces personnel are required to clear physical fitness tests on an annual basis. Only certain medical conditions and certain kinds of physical injuries – evaluated on the degree of severity – exempt the personnel from tests but that puts those personnel in separate categories.

Coming to policemen, the police services in India are still of the colonial mould and despite setting up several state and national commissions to recommend police reforms including the Gore Committee, Ribeiro Committee, Padmanabhaiah Committee, Malimath Committee, no significant movement has been seen and police reforms still remain a distant dream.

It is a sad commentary that India, after almost 70 years of independence, is without a fit, well-trained and professional police force. Not to mention the high-on-power attitude that takes away the confidence of people in the very law enforcement agency that is supposed to be their first line of defence against crime.

One can simply walk into any police station or check police posts in public locations. Chances are that despite having access to physical training setup and gyms, a large portion of the personnel will be physically unfit. Senior police officers in many states have taken initiatives in the past to drill their personnel for physical fitness and training for handling arms. Unless a regular mandatory physical qualifier is put to the entire police force on a regular basis, much of our first line of defence will itself remain in need of protection.

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