Changing the culture of the police has become a sort of slogan that every government – political or non-political – finds itself obliged to chant. Courts are putting a lot of pressure to change policing practices and the media is coming up with scandals exposing bad elements of police culture on an almost daily basis.
Such incidents like that of Salahuddin and and many other cases that cannot be justified or rationalised or explained away in any straightforward manner. They are tragic outcomes of processes and institutional cultures that, similarly, cannot be simplified nor understood in isolation of the socio-political contexts in which they evolve and develop.
In this regard, it is important to have a discussion on police culture, of which one aspect is police use of force. It is pertinent to remind the reader that the police, in fact, do much more than use force. Nevertheless, given the incident in question, it is central to this discussion.
n other words, police culture is also a product of our society’s depreciating levels of tolerance and our own fascination with and glorification of vigilante justice, ‘encounter cops’, capital punishment (‘hang them all’), capture and kill (‘pakro aur maaro’), all generations of warfare, boots and bombs, even hypermasculinity.