Mumbai Police was once hailed as the best police force in the country and was compared with the iconic Scotland Yard police in the UK. The Mumbai police force had a good reputation as the ground-level officers, many who were not even matric pass were honest and competent to the core. Law and order were very good in the city in those good old days of 1930s to the 1970s. Mumbai police commissioners were part of an illustrious list of officers. But things slowly started deteriorating for the worst over the lost four decades.
Now I am not saying that Mumbai police is the worst. They are still among the best in this country. But the force has become more political and corruption has become endemic. One of the major reasons for the falling reputation of the Mumbai police have been the IPS officers at the helm. Here my purpose is not to talk about individual IPS officers but rather about the how the top leadership has over the years worked to reduce the morale of the force.
How many remember the Raza academy islamist mob that ran riot at Azad maidan in 2012. The reason incredulously was to protest against supposed atrocities on the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The mob desecrated the Amar Jawan Jyoti and even dared to molest the on-duty women officers. Lower ranked police officers on the spot repeatedly urged for permission to take stringent action, but then Mumbai Police commissioner Arup Patnaik asked them to not take any action and publicly chided the officers. Whether the CP acted that way on orders of the then Congress-NCP state government is not known. But it led to a lot of resentment among the rank and file of the proud Mumbai police force.
I have heard a lot of stories from existing and retired policemen friends about how the IPS officers have stifled the talented among the lower ranks. This leads to a deterioration in the quality of the police force over time. If the inspector/ hawaldar/ constable thinks that he is likely to get more flak than credit from the leadership for being innovative in solving tricky cases, they stop being brave in solving crimes. The reduces the efficacy of the police force over time.
Consider the two recent cases which have been mishandled by the Mumbai police obviously under political pressure. First is the actor Sushant Singh Rajput (SSR) death case. The Mumbai police made a royal mess of the investigation which caused insinuations of evidence destruction and ultimately led the Supreme court to transfer the case to the CBI.
Also more recently the laughable presser by current Mumbai police CP Parambir Singh where he said that a FIR filed against India Today TV channel for TRP manipulation was investigated within 12 hours and they found evidence against Republic TV instead. I wonder how many actually believed that the Mumbai police are so efficient. Also, later facts surfaced and led to more suspicion about the role of the police instead. Apparently India Today were fined 5 lakh rupees by BARC for abnormal rise in TRP.
In both these cases it is apparent that the IPS leadership of the Mumbai police could not stand up against the political leadership of the state. Worse they could have colluded with the political powers to supress investigation in certain cases or manufacture charges in some other cases. We will know the complete truth after complete investigation of these controversial cases. However, the Mumbai police leadership forgot the adage that justice must also be seen to be delivered.
Hope the Modi government at the centre works to reform the IPS and make them more accountable to the voters of this country rather than to the political masters (including the BJP). That’s the only hope for the Mumbai police force to regain their lost prestige.