In March 2020, the Indian government responded to the pandemic by declaring a lockdown. However, several relevant authorities, including police authorities, were not prepared for the lockdown. The Ministry of Home Affairs failed to provide instructions to all police organisations as soon as the lockdown was announced, which resulted in a substantial discrepancy in how police reacted in different Indian localities. India witnessed a drastic difference in how police reacted during the lockdown from the brutal beating of citizens, frequently to their deaths, to delivery of essential products to households in need by police and using innovative methods to educate citizens about COVID-19.

Guidelines for better policing

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) prepared detailed guidelines for police departments in enforcing the lockdown in keeping with the constitutional framework. The guidelines urged the police to approach its mandate in a humane, transparent, accountable and non-discriminatory manner, in the spirit of service, always respecting the human rights of the population.

CHRI identified 54 actionable measures/guidelines to be included in the Lockdown Management Plan. In the guidelines, CHRI emphasised that police leaders should develop a holistic Lockdown Management Plan which includes these actionable within local contexts. These 54 measures are grouped into nine broad categories including a category on steps that police should take to protected themselves from the coronavirus. These measures not only reflect on how the police should treat the public but also how they should treat their colleagues.

“Our success in enforcing the lockdown rules will depend on our ability to elicit the cooperation of the people, always be on the lookout for the genuine need of people.”

Videos were also used for training of police forces.

“Police in India are not perceived as friends.”

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