mid-day editorial: Will cops ever learn from mistakes?

The Salman Khan hit-and-run trial had the potential to serve as an example to deter drunk drivers across the nation. Instead, it has so far only served as an example of different ways to bungle an investigation. So much so that the Bombay High Court, while delivering its verdict in the case, lambasted Mumbai Police for glaring loopholes in the probe that had helped the actor walk free.

Asked why the investigators had not bothered to examine constable number 2985, who had accompanied Salman for a blood test following the accident in 2002, Mumbai Police came up with the most predictable excuse: “We are unable to trace him.”

All it took was a few phone calls for mid-day to not only learn who this mysterious Constable 2985 was, but also to track down and interview his son. With a little old-fashioned digging through police records, our reporter managed to identify the cop as Shivaji Sawant, who retired as assistant sub-inspector in 1998 — a whole four years before he was supposed to have collected Salman’s blood samples.

After this paper’s front-page revelation (‘Mystery of missing constable deepens’, December 12), the red-faced Mumbai Police have now launched an inquiry into the goof-up.

And this is not the first time city cops have made such grievous errors. According to a recent report released by the NGO, Praja Foundation, in the five years between January 2008 and December 2012, the police were unable to prove charges in 386 out of 550 criminal cases. In 24 cases, the accused had to be given the benefit of doubt because the investigations had too many loopholes.

These numbers show that not only have the police botched cases before, they have failed to learn their lesson each time, and so, will likely make the same mistakes again. And this, in a force that thinks itself second to none but the Scotland Yard.

It’s not enough to make claims about being the best, Mumbai Police. Ensuring thorough investigations is the only way to earn the top position.

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