Armed with nothing but negotiating skills and some empathy, a police inspector helped save a woman’s life, here in Wadala, on Friday. Inspector Shalini Sharma has been the go-to woman for Mumbai police every time the force faces such a precarious situation. The reason: she is trained for it. Shalini, inspector at the Chembur police station, had learnt Hostage Negotiation and Crisis Management after 26/11. This was when the city police realised they didn’t have any skilled negotiators in their ranks. Commenced by the then Director General Himanshu Roy, 14 members, led by Shalini, who was then with the Mumbai crime branch, were chosen to go to London and learn the tactical skill from Scotland Yard, under their commissioner Paul Stephenson, in 2010. It was a two-week long course and the grant was for $10,000.
Ever since she returned from the course, there has been no hostage rescue situation. Her services, however, have been used to push back people from the brink of killing themselves, like a woman who threatened to jump off the 18th floor of a building in Wadala on May 5.
The woman, who would later threaten to kill herself, had set out from home early in the morning, telling her parents she was headed to a temple to attend puja.
After the ACP at Wadala was informed that a woman was threatening to jump off the 18th floor of an under-construction building at 10.30 am, he immediately thought of Shalini.
By 12.30 pm, Shalini was with the woman on the 18th floor. The negotiation went on for about three hours, during which Shalini tried to build a relationship with her. “When I was informed about the situation, I rushed to the spot in Wadala. Along with the local police and fire brigade, we formed a strategy. I talked to her in a comforting tone and, after a while, I brought tea and biscuits for her and got some legal papers, and started working there casually. This put her at ease, but every time I tried to get closer, she would get irritated.”
“These assignments can be both stressful and satisfying at the same time. When you are on the 18th floor negotiating with the person, there is stress since one wrong move could be fatal. But when the rescue operation turns out well, it is immensely satisfying to know that one could save a life,” she said.