On Monday, Mumbai Police chief Rakesh Maria joined 250 members of his team to answer objective questions ranging from how they felt when they woke up in the morning, to whether they were satisfied with their life.
All of them had to tick boxes to register their response to questions and statements about their conduct with their family, their relationship with their colleagues and even lines such as “I have difficulty in remembering what I did the previous night after I was drunk”.
With an assistant sub-inspector shooting a superior in Vakola this month, and stress emerging as a major reason behind many police deaths, the country’s oldest force of its kind has decided to undergo psychological analysis that will cover the 50,000-strong organisation in the coming months.
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Each form, in Marathi, contains 68 questions in three sets and is part of an initiative launched in partnership with the Bombay Psychiatric Society.
Following the first set of tests that started at around 11.45 am, Mumbai Police also released figures pointing to acute stress in the force and showing 46 deaths among police personnel between January and April this year, with 13 resulting from heart diseases.
“There are a lot of aspects of our job that contribute towards heart disease. Prominent among these are the strenuous duty hours, a lifestyle that is stressful and allows no time for recreation or regular exercise, lack of sleep and lack of fixed timings for meals,” said Mumbai Police spokesperson DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni.
As for senior officers participating in the exercise, Deven Bharti, JCP (Law and Order), said, “A larger message needed to be send to the force — that they should fill the forms with honesty and that they should not think their careers would be affected if they speak up against senior officers.”
On Monday, Maria and Bharti sat facing the 250 who took the test near the police HQ — the assembly hall saw quite a few interruptions with the constabulary’s doubts being addressed by the commissioner himself, including what some questions actually meant.
Bharti added that the exercise was structured in such a way that the counselor is given direct access to the policemen after a form is assessed.
”Counseling or even a pep talk will now be provided, if required,” said Bharti.
“The survey is only meant to get an idea of whether any of our personnel are in need of counselling or other measures. We (the police leadership) will not even see their questionnaires. They will be sealed as soon as they are filled and will only be viewed by the psychiatrists, who will evaluate them and contact the concerned officer or constable directly to suggest any remedial measures required,” he added.
Dr Yusuf Matcheswala, who is heading this initiative on behalf of the Bombay Psychiatric Society, termed the analysis as “a massive task”.
“We are thinking of using a software to feed the data and scrutinise it. Those identified to be fighting depression, stress or addiction will be individually approached for treatment,” said Dr Matcheswala, who is also the psychiatry unit head at state-run JJ Hospital.
The project, which was conceptualised last November, was put on priority this month after assistant sub-inspector Dilip Shirke shot senior inspector Vilas Joshi dead at the Vakola police station on May 2 and then turned the gun on himself.
JCP Bharti admitted, “My job in Law and Order is hectic. I was honest in filling up my form and I am awaiting my results to see how I am assessed.”
Additionally, the police is also holding laughter therapy sessions and counselling sessions for groups of officers. On Monday, at one such session of 200 officers, JCP (Protection and Security) Kiran Shelar asked cops to work “like a family”.