In a free-wheeling conversation with Sagar Rajput, new Mumbai Police Commissioner Vivek Phansalkar shares his plan of making a new rule for senior police officers to regularly meet woman complainants while saying that the force, on his watch, will not work under any political pressure. He also weighs in on the spike in cyber crime cases in the city. Excerpts:
How do you plan to deal with crime against women, children and senior citizens in the city?
Our primary job is prevention and detection of crime. Ensuring the safety of women, children, destitute and senior citizens will be our primary focus. We will also aim to give justice to the people who are suffering. Mumbai is a big metropolitan city and policing is a huge challenge. We will not complain about constraints of resources and will do whatever is required to ensure the safety of citizens with the resources that we have at our disposal. Our force is one of the best in the country, though some past incidents did put a dent on our image. The delivery of services will be done appropriately. We will soon start reviewing cases where women are the complainants. A senior police officer will personally meet the complainant and the investigating officer of the case to ensure that their problems are resolved at the earliest. It will help us build confidence in them. Our actions will speak for us.
Are the Mumbai police working under political pressure as, soon after the formation of the new government, the city police’s SIT closed a preliminary enquiry (PE) against businessman Jitendra Navlani, who along with three other persons were accused of extorting money from top builders on behalf of the Enforcement Directorate?
Mumbai police will not work under any political pressure. We will be dealing only with the facts and circumstances of a case. We will work as per evidence available on record. The SIT has evaluated the facts and the evidence that were on record and it is on the basis of them that the closure report was submitted.
The Antilia and Mansukh Hiren murder incident has shown the Mumbai Police in bad light. As the new Mumbai police commissioner, what precautions will you take to ensure that such an episode is not repeated?
I have told the police personnel that wrongdoings will not be tolerated. In the first meeting with senior-ranked officers, I conveyed a strong message to them that our job is only to protect citizens from crime and criminals. Strict action will be taken against those who indulge in any misconduct.
Former commissioner Sanjay Pandey had introduced a series of initiatives, including the ‘Sunday Street’. Would you be continuing with them or will there be any changes?
Whatever initiatives are in the interest of people will be continued. Of course, we will also be gauging people’s response to these initiatives and accordingly, decisions on changes shall be taken.
What are your plans to make sure that the city has a healthy police force?
Given the working hours, it becomes difficult for us to find time to take care of one’s health. But we will try to infuse enthusiasm in the force and encourage the personnel to take care of their health at home as well as at work. Every person should be conscious about their health and avoid eating junk food. We will encourage our personnel to eat homemade food as much as possible and in proportion to their body requirement. Besides, we will organise health camps, take care of serious ailments of every personnel, upgrade our medical facilities and review their services. I will also be mandating senior police inspectors and those of the rank of deputy commissioners of police to regularly check on the health of their subordinates and advise them accordingly.
In what way would you ensure that the city is safe from terrorism?
We have our anti-terrorism cell at every police station which are keeping a check on anti-social elements. We will also be coordinating with the state Anti-Terrorism Squad and will soon hold a meeting with the ATS chief to ensure that we are on the same page. Counter-terrorism preparation and tackling all threats with timely and necessary action will be our priority.
How do you plan to ensure strict law enforcement on establishments (hotels, pubs, bars, eateries, etc) without affecting Mumbai’s nightlife?
The government has laid down certain rules and regulations. At the time of issuing licences to the owners of respective establishments, they are instructed to abide by the laws and are expected to do so. We do not intend to take away from the city’s nightlife but our job is to ensure that the rules are followed.
How do you plan to curb the menace of cyber crime? Increasing complaints with poor detection and recovery rate in cyber crime cases are some of the serious issues plaguing the citizens. How do you plan to tackle these?
It is a major challenge. Today almost everyone is active on social media and there is no territorial binding to it. We have five cyber police stations in the city and will be reviewing their manpower and tools. We will enhance them as and when required. I will also be mandating all local police stations to deal with such complaints promptly and help people who have fallen prey to such frauds. But I would also like to appeal to the people to be cautious and avoid contact with any unknown person. Unless they are confident, they should not share their bank account details with anyone, least of them unknowns. Meanwhile, we have a social media laboratory that is keeping a close eye on social media because timely intervention is important.