Mumbai Police must not be allowed to cop out

On Saturday, this paper published an article on Commissioner Rakesh Maria's new diktat to his men — do not trouble couples at malls, beaches, public parks and hotels. The order was issued in the wake of a series of mid-day reports on the moral policing raids in Malwani.

Every week or so, the Mumbai Police commissioner’s office releases orders to police stations across the city. Though these orders are sent at regular intervals, the department has not bothered to put a mechanism in place to ensure that the instructions are taken seriously.

Cops are routinely given orders to take action against beggars loitering on the streets, to surrender weapons before leaving the police station, act sensitive while dealing with rape survivors, minors and senior citizens. However, despite repeated reminders, there are innumerable complaints against the lower rank when it comes to obeying these rules.

The 2012 Azad Maidan riots are an ironic reminder that even the police chiefs sometimes fail to abide by their own rules. Following on the heels of severe assaults on the city's policemen during the riots in August 2012 — 44 cops had to be hospitalised — former police commissioner Dr Satyapal Singh had issued a circular instructing that a special crime sheet be drawn up against those who dared to assault the men in khaki. He decreed that those involved in crimes against cops would be subjected to cancellation of driving licence, passport, employment exchange number, and a lookout notice would be issued against them under the Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities (MPDA) Act. But when a group of legislators launched an assault on Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Suryavanshi in the Vidhan Bhavan in March 2013, the commissioner ignored his own orders.

Instead of increasing the department’s paperwork with constant circulars, what Mumbai Police really needs is to put in place a system to monitor how well these diktats are followed, and to fix accountability on those that neglect to abide by the rules. Only this will ensure that the vision and ideas of the police commissioner actually translate into action.

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