I'm living in the "international dorm" in my university in Florida. Half of us in this dorm are international exchange students. The group of friends that I've made consists of people from all around the world. The diversity of the group often leads to discussions and comparisions of life back home, from food and shopping, to governments and laws.
Last week, when we were looking to rent a car for the weekend, the talk turned to driving. We discussed the differences in driving laws - I mentioned that all my driving test consisted of was one U-turn, my Peruvian friend said that in Peru, you can get out of traffic tickets by bribing the cop, I agreed with her. From which point, the talk turned to the police and law implementation.
All this tied in with some articles I've been reading recently. Tehelka carried an article about the botching up of the Aarushi Talwar case by the CBI, Annie Zaidi published links to articles about further incompetence, brutality and corruption of cops (here and here), Dilip D'Souza poignantly displayed the utter stupidity and blatant incompetence of police offers in a court case. And I remember walking with a friend and talking about how I've never been asked for ID in any bar in Delhi, and how easy it is to find drugs or bribe a cop to get out of a traffic ticket in Delhi. And I remember telling her that we read and hear a lot about the corruption of cops, or their incompetence, but we never really hear about the good cops. Surely there must be some.
But these succession of articles are so frustrating, so shocking, they leave me feeling so overwhelmingly helpless that I start doubting that belief. If there are some good cops, where are they? Why do I hear only about events and behaviours that should be hard to believe, but sadly are so familiar that they're not even particularly surprising? Why is it that I'm beginning to doubt my comment that there are good cops in India, they're just never talked about?
What went wrong? Why are there so many bad cops? Corruption is one thing - at least there's some gain to be seen, which provides an explanation for why. But what do police officers gain from imprisoning and harassing 23 men without even telling them the reason for their arrest? How can that possibly not sound blatantly wrong? What reason could a public servant, an officer of the law in a democratic country, have for doing that?
I believe that I've been lucky. I've never been stopped by a cop, nor ever needed a cop for a crime that happened to me. But I'm still so scared - what if someday I need the police? What if I need them to solve a crime, and they display their incompetence? What if someday I'm at the receiving end of their incomprehensible bullshit treatment of citizens? It's frustrating and depressing enough about to hear of such things happening to strangers. How would I handle it if it was me, or someone I cared about? Is there even a way of seeking redressal? Is there a way out of a situation where the police refuse to protect evidence or do a thorough investigation into a murder? Is there a way to do something, anything when trumped up or incomprehensibly random "evidence" is used in a trial to convict a citizen?