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Banerjee, Duflo in Rajasthan research paper: Better transfers, time off work can improve police performance

The husband-wife duo had co-authored a working paper on ‘Improving police performance in Rajasthan’, following a study conducted at 162 out of 800 police stations in the state.

, ET Bureau|
Oct 15, 2019, 11.16 PM IST
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On the interventions that failed to work, the paper said these parameters were selected by the police leadership.
New Delhi: Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, winners of this year’s Nobel Prize for economics along with Michael Kremer, had said in a research paper in 2012 that police performance can be improved through simple interventions such as a better transfer policy and mandatory time off work.

The husband-wife duo had co-authored a working paper on ‘Improving police performance in Rajasthan’, following a study conducted at 162 out of 800 police stations in the state. “The promise of transfers out of a less favoured assignment — police lines in this case — based on good performance more than doubled the number of drunk drivers brought to court. Training police staff in investigation techniques and public relations skills (soft skills) also increased the satisfaction of crime victims,” said the study.

Banerjee and Duflo had teamed up with Rajasthan IPS officer Nina Singh to publish the working paper.

The entire staff in selected police stations was given one day off every eight days to examine the impact on performance. The paper concluded that “there is no significant impact on time spent on specific duties”.

ADG Singh, posted in Jaipur, told ET:

“This was a unique project to study the efficacy of various interventions related to improvement of police performance.

Perhaps it was the first study of this magnitude anywhere in the world.”

Singh said the study generated hard data to show what helped improve performance at police stations.

“We also analysed the reasons of those interventions that did not work for informed decision-making at the policy planning level,” she said.

During the study, decoy visits were used to get police to register more crime. This proved “effective”, according to the paper. As many as 1,541 police personnel across ranks were trained for three days to improve their attitude with the public. The other coauthors were IIM Prof R Chattopadhyay and Prof Danies Keniston of Louisina State University.

On the interventions that failed to work, the paper said these parameters were selected by the police leadership.

“These senior police officers also did not lack human capital, being selected through an extraordinarily competitive set of exams. Yet they had clearly substantially underappreciated the difficulty of implementing these interventions even with their full backing, suggesting that they did not fully realise the nature of the informal authority enjoyed by the station chiefs,” it said.

Former Rajasthan DGP AS Gill, who was also part of the 2012 study, said:

“This was definitely a useful study and they had done a comprehensive job what was ailing the police.”

Banerjee and Duflo also published another study with Singh on drunken driving. “Police action spread across multiple, initially less promising, locations causes a significant decrease in road accidents and deaths,” it said.

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