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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Tightrope of high-risk duties & trying to stay safe: How Pune cops navigated the pandemic year

The 8,600-strong Pune City Police have, till now, reported 1,597 Covid-19 cases, of which 105 officers and personnel are active cases as on Tuesday.

Written by Sushant Kulkarni | Pune |
Updated: March 24, 2021 12:12:35 am
Pimpri-Chinchwad cops bust adulterated diesel racket, arrest 6Pimpri-Chinchwad Police on Tuesday said they have busted a racket of sale of adulterated diesel. (File)

TOP OFFICIALS from Pune City Police say that one year since the nationwide lockdown was imposed, it was a tightrope walk for them, between executing their Covid duties in addition to routine policing duties, and keeping the force safe while doing so.

The 8,600-strong Pune City Police have, till now, reported 1,597 Covid-19 cases, of which 105 officers and personnel are active cases as on Tuesday. Eleven police personnel lost their lives. The numbers for the 2 lakh-strong Maharashtra Police stand close to 32,000 cases and over 345 deaths.

Since the beginning of the lockdown, the police force has been deployed in various high- exposure duties like guarding the boundaries of districts or containment zones, or deployment at high-risk isolation wards, quarantine facilities or hospitals. Police were also given additional responsibility of managing the large number of migrant workers who were moving back to their states, and also when they were returning, in addition to all the routine police work.

After the various unlock phases began, the Covid-related deployment eased, but the volume of routine police work came back to normal.
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Additional Commissioner of Police (Administration) for Pune City Police, Jalindar Supekar, said, “While making sure that we minimised the risk for the force as much as possible, various steps were taken from the beginning. We started a dedicated Covid helpline for police personnel and their family members. A dedicated Covid cell headed by an ACP was formed at the headquarters, and was given the task of making sure there was a smooth supply of safety gear and sanitisers etc. A fever clinic was started for police to screen symptoms and at the peak of the pandemic, a 50-bed isolation facility and four ambulances were kept ready at Shivajinagar headquarters. We have also started some efforts towards increasing the overall fitness among the police force. An officer was identified from each police station as a ‘wellness officer’ and was given responsibility to coordinate all Covid response efforts for the police station.”

Supekar added, “Police personnel can’t avoid contact with the public. And thus we are stressing on taking all possible care while doing routine police duties… for example, precautions to be taken while making arrests. There will be continuous efforts to make these precautions a habit. We have to keep the balance between doing our duties and keeping our force safe.”

Dr K Venkatesham led Pune City Police as Commissioner till the third week of September last year and received a lot of appreciation for coordinated response and technology-based solutions during the pandemic. Senior IPS officer Amitabh Gupta took over charge after him during the peak of the pandemic.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Gupta said, “When I took over, the cases were at their peak. But at the same time, a lot of criminals had been released on emergency parole and furlough due to Covid-19 and were found to be committing crimes. We had to walk a tightrope between keeping crimes under control and making sure that risk to our people was minimum. Over the last couple of months, we have seen increased criminal activity, which we have succeeded in controlling with stringent steps and coordinated efforts. Now that cases are rising again, we will have to continue doing this balancing act of doing our routine police duties and keeping our force safe.”

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