Without vehicles to transport their canine colleagues, officers of the Mumbai Police dog squad were left with no means to check important locations in the city, such as Mantralaya, Vidhan Bhavan, the DG Office and the Mumbai Police Commissionerate Office, for three days.
This comes at a time when security in the city has been increased in wake of the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, said police sources.
Police officers said that for the first time since they assumed duty, eight dogs comprising the Goregaon unit of the Mumbai Police dog squad had to skip work as they were waiting for a ride. Three vehicles assigned to the squad had broken down, as a result of which mandatory checks at vital installations and ministers’ residences weren’t carried out. The squad, which includes Labradors and German Shepherds, received 15 calls from September 15 to 17 but had to turn them all down.
The Mumbai Police currently has three dog squads — a crime branch squad deputed to search for leads at crime scenes, a bomb detection and disposal squad (BDDS) for when the control room receives calls about suspicious objects in public places and the third at Aarey colony in Goregaon, which is usually deputed to check vital installations and places expecting movement of VIPs.
The crime branch dog squad has been allotted two Mahindra Scorpios and the BBDS has one Scorpio, while the Goregaon squad was given three vehicles (a Scorpio, an Indigo and a Tata Sumo) — the squads have nine, twelve and eight sniffer dogs respectively.
Police officers said that during the three-day period, they took calls on record and informed them that their vehicles were awaiting repairs with the motor vehicle department.
“Till Tuesday afternoon, we didn’t know when we would be getting the vehicles back, due to which every call was either being turned down or transferred to the other two units depending on the importance. One vehicle that had broken down on the last day of Ganesh immersion when we were deputed to a visarjan point in Mumbai’s north region, where we had to take these dogs sniffing around at regular intervals. The engine suddenly stopped working as, when the dogs were resting in the vehicle, the air conditioning was on for a longer duration,” said a police officer.
The third vehicle stopped working on Saturday.
Late on Tuesday, when the Goregaon unit of dog squad unit received a call to go and check a five-star hotel in south Mumbai before Election Commission officials were to stay there, they had to turn down that as well.
“But later, when a provisional car was provided for the transport of these sniffer dogs, we carried out a search of the location” added an officer.
Early on Wednesday, one of the unit’s vehicles was repaired and returned, following which the squad began operating again. Police sources said the dog squads are often given second-hand vehicles that had once been used by senior-rank officers.
“Once these vehicles get old, they remove the rear seats to make room for the dogs, where even their handlers have to sit and travel throughout the day. These kinds of transport cause backache and other body pain…” added the officer.
When contacted, Deputy Commissioner of Police (protection and security) Prashant Kadam said that he needed to look into the matter, but did not respond to calls and messages afterwards.