The Mumbai police suddenly needs a PR strategist. In the last few months, it has earned itself an image as violent as the episodes the force has been involved in, damaging its reputation. Social media is abuzz every other day with fresh videos of appalling police behaviour. If their endeavour is to maintain the law and order effectively, their first step should be to display responsible behaviour. With the power they carry to book offenders, detain and arrest them as per law, they seem to have taken easily to a display of physical aggression, sorting out matters by roughing up civilians instead of being facilitators of the law.
In an incident dated November 2, of which a video has gone viral, a call centre employee couple were at the mercy of the Andheri police, who chided them, abused them, even beat them, leading to an uproar across social and mainstream media. Found fighting in the middle of the road by a patrolling team, they were picked up and summoned to the station, where the violence eventually erupted.
There is bound to be the other side (police say they were inebriated, fighting amongst themselves and spitting on passersby), but that hardly justifies the physical violence that the police resorted to. Earning the tag of villains, they lost the opportunity to have their side heard. Had they maintained calm, the script would’ve turned out differently.
What’s worse, this is not an isolated case. There have been repeated instances of cops violating civilians, often inside police stations. Have past commissioners, one of whom suggested, ‘If there has to be a dada in the area at all, created an acceptable image of the hot-headed Singham?
The proposal for CCTVs to monitor goings on inside police stations is still in process. Interestingly, Mumbai is not alone. Kansas has been debating if policemen should wear body cameras to record their behaviour on duty. The UK police are expected to receive their consignment of body cameras early next year. But perhaps technology isn’t the answer. It’s about introspecting the mindset, and reflecting on the conditions in which the police are expected to perform.