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Cops thrown the code book

Chastened by traffic sergeant Bapi Sen’s death, the state police top brass on Tuesday despatched circulars to all its officers commanding barracks, calling for strict enforcement of rules.

Describing Bapi’s death as “a tragic and rare incident”, deputy inspector-general of police (headquarters) Narayan Ghosh said at Writers’ Buildings that the authorities had repeatedly instructed the force to follow the rules laid down by the Bengal Police Regulation Code.

Earlier, this had been done “verbally”; on Tuesday, the directive went out “in writing”.

Admitting that Bapi’s death — at the hands of five constables who he had tried to stop from harassing a woman on New Year’s eve — showed the police force in poor light, senior police officers said if the code book was followed strictly, there was very little chance of men in uniform getting away with unruly behaviour or corrupt practices.

“For instance, the state armed police constables need to take permission from their superiors if they want to go out of their barracks,” stated Ghosh.

Quoting figures, the DIG (headquarters) said every year, over 1,000 cases of disciplinary proceedings take place, which lead to about 15 constables being dismissed. “Also, there are other forms of punishments, like fines and blocking of promotions,” Ghosh added.

Some officers chose to blame the rot on the trade unionism within the force. “We sometimes seem to forget that it is a disciplined force and there is not much difference between us and the army. We could never have imagined police union leaders enjoying the kind of clout they do within the force these days,” observed one of them.

A retired police officer, who during his tenure had held many key posts, said Bapi’s death should not be seen as an “isolated” case. “We should not just blame the five constables… We must view Bapi’s death in the context of the existing policing system and the elements of corruption that have crept in over the years.”

Determined to project the fact that “all is not lost”, Ghosh said: “We don’t only emphasise the need for physical fitness now, we include a lot of aspects in the training programmes to sensitise new recruits. We bring in experts to teach sociology, psychology and human rights to them,” he observed, adding that constables joining the force were kept under strict surveillance during their training period.

But Ghosh, echoing chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, called for greater police-public interaction to improve matters.

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