They can raise a live, armoured unit and leave for a hostage situation in 14 minutes, a good deal quicker than the 20 minutes they took earlier. In the fifth year since its inception following the 26/11 terror attacks, Force One, based out of Kalina police campus in suburban Mumbai, has managed this and a host of other advances in training and preparedness, all critical during the first or golden hour in an urban insurgency situation.
That the first few minutes are crucial has been well established. In the infamous Fort Hood shooting of November 5, 2009, Major Nidal Malik Hasan gunned down 13 victims and wounded 28, firing 100 rounds from his FN Herstal 5.7-millimetre pistol in all of seven minutes, between 1.20 and 1.27 pm.
“We are still to shave off those extra minutes in our mock drills,” says a commando who says Fort Hood and similar situations are now part of their curriculum. “On some days, we come close to 12 minutes, but we need to do better.”
But the elite commando unit designed on the lines of German Police’s GSG 9 (they even went to meet their counterparts) is still wary of the actual first responder — the Mumbai police constabulary. “It’s how they will react and use their weapon in the first seven minutes that will decide everyone’s fate,” says a Delhi-based officer from the National Security Guard. “Our reports say that police in cities across the country are not prepared.”
The 5,500 officers and 31,515 constabulary of the Mumbai Police, scarred by memories of 26/11, are still to be trained in first-response intervention and firing. While Force One commandos keep working with possible scenarios around sensitive installations, the Mumbai Police constable, as admitted by a note from the Ministry of Home Affairs soon after 26/11, could likely be the first to react in an urban counter attack. And the constables are clearly unprepared.
Indian Police Service (IPS) officers in five zones of Mumbai admitted they had not checked the firing performance of their personnel periodically. Of the 240 mock drills that Force One has co-ordinated along with Quick Response Teams to date, only one-third even had direct participation of policemen from police stations.
“In one drill, an Assistant Police Inspector was standing next to the armoured vehicle with an AK-47, the weapon that Ajmal Kasab fired. It was a drill around a popular landmark. When we asked him what his response would be, he said his superiors had told him he should start firing when he hears sounds coming from inside. Then, with just 20 seconds left for his response, we had to ask him to correct the butt of his weapon. He looked shocked,” says one officer from a specialised force.
In joint mock drills conducted with the National Security Guards also, the 350-strong urban commando unit finds the first few minutes controlled by the Mumbai Police uncomfortable. The police top brass counters this saying the constabulary is primarily an “executive force”, and should not be perceived as a “trigger happy” set.
On the night of November 26 too, at all the five spots of attack, the first seven minutes were crucial. Of the 52 bodies that were collected from CST the next morning, more than half were killed in the first six minutes.