Budgeting for the police

Higher allocations by themselves are not enough, the structure of budgetary allocations can have an impact on police performance


Budgets barely allocate funds for operational expenses of running police stations, or maintenance costs for computer systems, arms and ammunition. Photo: HT
Budgets barely allocate funds for operational expenses of running police stations, or maintenance costs for computer systems, arms and ammunition. Photo: HT

As the law enforcement agency of the government and the first point of contact in the criminal justice system, the police is critical for sound law and order, and a good quality of life. There is perceptible dissatisfaction with policing in India today. It is often argued that poor resourcing is part of the problem, and that the police require a higher quantum of budgetary allocations.

While the police need to be well-resourced, higher allocations by themselves are not enough. The structure of budgetary allocations can have a disproportionate impact on the operations of the department, and consequently on police performance. It is, therefore, useful to analyse how police departments structure their budgets, and the manner in which the budgetary allocations are actually spent.

Our first example is that of Maharashtra Police. The data on budgets was collected from the Budget Estimation, Allocation and Monitoring System (BEAMS) of the department of finance under the government of Maharashtra. Our analysis suggests that budget outlays for the police only meet the establishment cost. Salary is the main component of budget, consuming almost 90% of the total allocation. The residual amount covers costs of domestic travel, maintenance of motor vehicles and petrol cost. Budgets, as they stand, barely allocate funds for operational expenses of running police stations, or maintenance costs for computer systems, arms and ammunition.

The analysis suggests that police budgets have focused solely on manpower. On an annual basis, budgets do not have allocations towards capacity building, and are not structured to achieve desired outcomes. The police also suffers from inadequate expenditure management. Expenses on items other than salary are not monitored frequently enough. Maharashtra Police recently launched an internal intelligence tool to monitor expenditure. The tool will track fund allocation and utilization across all units, i.e. districts, ranges and commissionerate under Maharashtra Police. The intelligence tool will also provide comparative metrics like expenditure per crime, per police station and per employee. While this is a step in the right direction and should be replicated by other states, its effects remain to be seen.

Our next example is that of spending on the modernization of police through grants. In the year 2000, an assessment of police infrastructure deficiency by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), a federal agency under the ministry of home affairs, estimated that Rs30,000 crore was needed over 10 years to fill the identified gaps in infrastructure.

Notably, the Modernisation of Police Forces Scheme to fund deficiency in state police infrastructure has been in existence since 1969-70, the cost of which is shared by the Centre and states. Annual allocations to this fund were raised substantially, following the BPR&D study. Since 2000, the focus has been to build secure police stations, increase the supply of police housing, improve forensic laboratory, equipment, training infrastructure, communication systems and mobility of the police force.

The scheme has had limited success. An impact evaluation of the scheme, conducted by consultants EY, for BPR&D in 2010, acknowledged the positive impact of the scheme, but stated that it “has been able to fill very limited gaps compared to the actual requirements of the police forces”. The assessment also pointed to inadequate training and lack of funds for repair and maintenance of assets created under the scheme. Despite the short supply of resources, the study found under-utilization of funds as a result of delays in release of funds and cumbersome asset-procurement processes.

The two examples demonstrate different problems with police budgets. Either funds are spent entirely on salaries, with little left for capacity building, or are underutilized even though they are not enough to begin with.

As with any budget, police budgets too need to be tied to outcomes. Broadly, the desired outcomes of policing are 1) safety and security of citizens; 2) collection of intelligence; 3) investigation of crime; and 4) sound public order. In the current form, budgets only fund salaries, and thus are not fully aligned to create conditions conducive for outcomes. First and foremost, aligning budgets to these outcomes will require outlays to fully cover the office or operating expenses of the police station. It is estimated that office or operation costs for running a police station in an urban area are around Rs5–6 lakh per year, while the figure for rural areas is between Rs4-5 lakh per year. This cost estimate covers expenses on any item of miscellaneous nature, such as stationery, translations, etc., while performing police duty.

The second input to achieve these outcomes is to build capacity within the police. This may be through focused training to keep pace with the changing nature of crime and prevention techniques, or the creation of IT infrastructure for tracking cases to tackle delays due to mounting pendency. It will also require investment in management techniques, soft skills, new technology, and building of databases to allow for seamless access to information, among other heads.

A dynamic process of evaluating the needs of effective policing, and aligning the budgets accordingly is an important step towards achieving a well-functioning police.

Renuka Sane and Neha Sinha are, respectively, a visiting fellow at IDFC Institute and an associate professor with NIPFP, and a senior associate at IDFC Institute.

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