The stamp of ‘special’ seems to have failed to screen several Mumbai police units from the curse of corruption. Citing allegations of corruption, Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik has ordered the dismantling of at least six such squads in the force. These squads were formed by various deputy and additional commissioners in their respective regions to crack down on street crime and provide protection to builders.
Last week, Patnaik issued a circular to all deputy and additional commissioners of police, informing them to dismantle the various specialised squads formed by them. Patnaik had also put forth an ultimatum to senior officials that in case they plan to persist with their respective units, they should also accept responsibility for the members, if they are found to be involved in any misconduct.
Confirming this, Mumbai police’s spokesperson, Additional Commissioner Sunil Paraskar, said, “The commissioner had ordered a detailed scrutiny of regional squads, following which officials who had formed the units were asked to take sole responsibility in case associates are found to be on the wrong side of the law.”
In the past couple of years, several deputy and additional commissioners have formed dozens of such squads. For instance, DCP Pratap Dighavkar of Zone IX had constituted Anti-Eve Teasing Squad, wherein cops were deployed on roads to ensure safety of women and protect them from ill treatment. He had also put together a Cycle Squad to enhance street patrolling. “Since it is a matter of internal communication, I would not like to comment on it,” Dighavkar told MiD DAY.
Turn for the worse
Meanwhile, Additional Ccommissioner of Police Vishwas Nangre-Patil (west region) had also formed a special squad to clear out increasing street crimes and handle cases that called for some kind of expertise, in the Bandra-Andheri area. Also, Zones V, VI and VII had formed anti-chain snatching squads. “Some of the best officers with wide range of network were picked up to be a part of this unit. Our squad had busted a major super bike racket in which several stolen bikes were brought to the city, evading excise. Though it is true about a member of such a squad that you tend to forge friendship with criminal elements, as we don’t have any other work than to form contacts,” said an officer who was part of the Western Region Squad, which is now defunct, following the order.
However, sources from the commissioner’s office revealed that several cops working in the specialised units had become hand-in-glove with criminals. Eventually, there were also allegations of these officers being involved in cases of extortion. Also, an anti-builder squad formed by Addl CP Nangre-Patil for the protection of builders had come under scanner for collecting haftas from them.
“The officers in the squads had grown close to various criminal elements and then had started extorting money and getting into illegal activities. An officer from a police station hardly has time to develop friendship with delinquents. The anti-builder squad for instance used to extort money from builders on various pretexts like functions in the house,” said a police officer.
Trouble within ranks
In 2000, after it was alleged that some of the officers of a certain squad were harassing businessmen for extortion, the then police commissioner dismantled the unit and the chowkie was locked for a while. Subsequently, the space was used by staff of the Juhu police station for three years. And in October 2004, the chowkie was allotted to the ATS. Earlier, ATS had also come under the scanner after it was revealed that some of the officers were involved in sending fake e-mails to the department about threats to vital installations in the city. Following the controversy, the squad was closed down for a few years. In 2006, the commissioner had shut down the police chowkie at Marine Drive after one of its constables, Sunil More, had raped a minor inside the premises. On investigations, it was found that the chowkie had become a den of corruption.