If your phone starts buzzing after you step out of a police station, answer - it might be your only chance to make cops answerable to you.
Taking a leaf out of the corporate rulebooks, the Mumbai police commissioner recently issued a circular asking senior officials to make phone calls to complainants after they register FIRs at police stations, asking them whether the experience was satisfactory. The commissioner’s diktat also instructs senior officials to keep tabs on the feedback and possible complaints received from people after they emerge from police stations, having recorded their grievances.
“All persons who lodge FIRs will receive a phone call to be asked about their experience, and whether they faced any difficulties,” confirmed Praveen Salunkhe, additional commissioner of police, Central region.
Sunil Paraskar, additional commissioner of police, North Region, revealed that the practice is already in place in his jurisdiction. The circular adds that apart from officials manning the control room, the additional commissioners of different regions have also been instructed to ring up the complainants and ask for their feedback.
The obvious intention behind this exercise is to take any officer to task if he or she is found shirking duties or misbehaving with complainants. The officer will then be answerable to the additional CP. In case there are similar successive complaints against a particular officer, the demerit will be noted on the officer’s service record.
“With this system in place, the senior police official would be able to ensure that every visitor is treated well. This will also ensure that the procedure of registering an FIR is followed by the book. The officers should read out the complaint to the complainant, and in course of investigations, hand a copy of the same to the complainant,” said former IPS officer AA Khan.
Cops in the city have acquired notoriety for turning away complainants without registering their complaints, so that crime rates remain low. Sources from the department revealed that a deputy commissioner was recently caught tampering with figures to impress his superiors.
The officer allegedly manipulated the crime rate in his zone to worm himself into the good books of the higher-ups. In areas like Zaveri Bazaar and DB Marg, police officers have been known to file fake FIRs for theft of gold, diamond and other valuables in exchange for bribes, so that insurance can be claimed.
The news was particularly heartening for Renuka Thakkar, resident of Kora Kendra in Borivli (West), who had a harrowing experience at Kasturba police station recently. Recounting the episode, she said, “I was attacked by the local corporator and the entire sequence was recorded on my phone. Despite such strong evidence, the cops kept delaying the process of registering an FIR, dragging it on for two days. Such a system is good news for people like us.”
TV actor Afiya Kapadia said, “They were not ready to listen to my complaints. In fact, the officer at Byculla police station abused me, using foul language.” “When the complainant approaches the police, they avoid him and ask him to take a few rounds and then come back, so that they lose patience and leave without registering formal complaints. In this way, their crime rates don’t increase,” said a police officer.
Having received scathing criticism in the recent past over a string of controversial arrests and claims of inaction, the Mumbai police is now on a mission to remake its image as a more people-friendly force. They are reportedly being trained in communications skills, and contact numbers of senior police officers are displayed in police stations these days. A few police officers, however, were quick to point out a glaring oversight of the system. “Through this system, the cops won’t be able to check with those visitors who have been turned away by officers at the police station,” said an officer.
Showing the way
In the wake of complaints against investigating officers for not giving proper consideration to cases filed by the victims or their family members, the Delhi police started the practice of calling up complainants for their feedback after their register FIRs. The calls could come from area DCPs or joint commissioners. In rare cases, a special commissioner, just one rank below the police chief, could also call.
This is part of a systemic change being adopted by the much-maligned Delhi Police following the public outrage over the Dec 16, 2012, gang-rape incident in Delhi. Senior police officers will make calls when the crimes relate to murder, kidnapping, and robbery. Topping the agenda is tackling crimes against women, including rapes.