It’s that time of the year when need for security in the city is at an all-time high. But in an unhappy coincidence, the morale of the police force has hit its lowest ebb in recent memory.
With the rift between several senior officers and their subordinates in the department becoming more apparent with each passing day, commissioner of police Dr Satyapal Singh has had to step in to stem the rot. On Thursday, Singh issued a notice to all police stations in the city, ordering high-ranking officers to stop bossing around while performing duties and asking for the instructions to be implemented with immediate effect.
“Presenting or showing oneself as the most powerful officer in front of subordinates is not favourable towards good communication between senior and junior officials,” the notice dispatched by Singh states. It goes on to say that on a number of occasions, junior officers have registered anonymous complaints against their superiors and the instances have been leaked to the media, reflecting poorly on the image of the police force.
According to department sources, the commissioner was alluding to the recent tiff between constable Vilas Sawant and joint commissioner of police (administration) Hemant Nagrale, the reverberations of which had reached the Mantralaya and the media. A fortnight ago, Nagrale had allegedly insulted Sawant posted at the commissioner’s office when the latter went with a request to get his transfer order squashed.
“The constable was shunted to a coastal police station, and since he wanted a posting close to his residence he approached the joint CP with a written appeal. Instead of hearing him out, Nagrale reportedly slighted him and asked him to get out of his office. The incident irked the constable and he made several complaints against Nagrale to the commissioner, home department and other ministers in Mantralaya. The episode became the talk of the town and also appeared in a Marathi newspaper,” said a senior level officer from the western suburbs.
This instance was not an aberration. In the past too, the department has witnessed several occurrences wherein superiors have misbehaved with their juniors. Following the Azad Maidan riots, Satyapal Singh’s predecessor Arup Patnaik was shifted out after he allegedly insulted deputy commissioner of police Ravindra Shisve by threatening to transfer him in front of the media. Following the controversy, it was Patnaik who was forced to leave his post.
Learning lessons from the past, Singh has said in his notice that high-ranking officials should act like guardians of the junior personnel rather than behaving like their bosses. He has also recommended that in case a subordinate commits mistakes, his superior should not insult him or use foul language. A senior should behave like a head of the family and respect its members (junior officers). This will not only bridge the communication gap, but also help officers gather respect among the junior staff, the commissioner has argued.
The order has not gone down well with the senior staffers, who allege that it will be very difficult to implement in day-to-day interactions. “We are responsible for our staff. It is not easy to deal with certain people if you are not strict with them. Discipline is key; if we are lenient with our officers they take advantage of it. It also leads to corruption at times and then the commissioner will blame the officers for not keeping an eye on their juniors,” said a senior inspector from south Mumbai.
“We can understand not using abusive or foul language. But this order has actually crippled us. It has circuitously given more power to our subordinates,” another senior officer lamented. Speaking to MiD DAY, Mumbai police spokesperson DCP Satyanarayan Chaudhary said, “The senior officers should treat the juniors like family. This will led to a congenial atmosphere in the police force and will also help improve the functioning of the department.”
Number of police officials who ended their lives between 2002 and 2012, according to the National Crime Records Bureau report
Police deaths under pressure
>> August 28, 2006: Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Vinod Bhatt (55), from ATS, had committed suicide on the railway tracks at Matunga due to pressure from his superior.
>> July 8, 2012: Prabhakar Patil (54), a sub-inspector attached to Turbhe police station had shot himself inside a local train at Belapur. A suicide note found in his pocket stated that he was taking the extreme step owing to harassment by his senior inspector.
>> July 31, 2013: Chandrakant Mahajan (42), assistant police inspector from Chunabhatti, had shot himself with his service revolver inside the police station last month. Mahajan too was frazzled because of his superior’s conduct.