Delhi moves towards smart policing

Earlier this month, Delhi Police merged the PCR unit with the district police and separated law and order and investigation duties. Though the move has been appreciated by officers across ranks, not all police stations have been able to reap its benefits due to inadequate staff

When senior IPS officer Rakesh Asthana joined as Delhi’s Commissioner of Police, one of his first initiatives was to integrate the Police Control Room (PCR) unit with the district police and to separate law and order and investigation teams, to ensure prompt response and increase operational efficiency.

On the ground, the move has been appreciated by officers across ranks, but they believe that for the plan to be successfully implemented, more personnel need to be deployed at police stations that do not have adequate staff.

What does it mean to integrate the PCR unit with the district police? In the earlier set-up, whenever a call was received, a PCR van would reach the spot first but not take necessary legal action till the police station staff arrived. Now, an officer from the police station is attached with the PCR staff at all times. This, in turn, ensures swift action right at the spot without the PCR staff having to wait for personnel from the police station to arrive to take over legal proceedings, if required.

“While this looks like a good move, it will only be successful at police stations that have adequate staff. For instance, at our police station there are only three sub-inspectors, so this scheme, in many ways, cannot be successful,” said an SI-rank woman officer on condition of anonymity.

She said attaching the PCR staff with police stations — at least three PCR vehicles with one police station — has its own benefits but at the moment, on the ground, it was not helping much. “A constable-rank officer from the police station goes with the PCR staff to attend to calls. But the officer can handle only non-heinous crimes, like a brawl. If a robbery or murder is reported, the constable has to call the emergency officer (assistant sub-inspector and above-rank officers) from the police station,” she said.

There are three sub-inspectors at a police station, the officer said, which means that if one is on leave and the other has to attend to court matters, the third will have to be present at the police station.

Two sections formed

“Under the new scheme, two sections have been formed at police stations – investigation and law and order. Police stations, which have more senior staff, can make up to six-seven teams for investigation and law and order each and work in shifts. But at a police station, like ours with less staff, this shift system does not work. If I am on emergency duty today, it’s possible that I get the same duty tomorrow again,” the officer said.

One of the solutions the SI suggested was to fast-track departmental inquiries against officers who are good at investigation. There are officers, she said, who were being wasted in other non-performing units because the departmental inquiries against them have not been completed. Talking about the benefits, another SI said with PCR vans being attached with police stations, they now have more vehicles at their disposal. “This increases visibility and the vans also reach the spot faster,” he said.

Another advantage, he said, was that those in the investigation team will not have to do picket duty, which they earlier had to do for three hours irrespective of the work load. “Investigation teams do not have to get involved with law and order unless the situation is dire. For instance, if I have a murder case to work on and am ordered to perform arrangement duty the next day, there is a possibility of missing crucial evidence immediately after a crime is committed. That situation may be prevented now,” he said.

A head constable posted on law-and-order duty in South West District said the initiative has ensured that he gets time with his family and it has also improved his mental health. “The work load has been reduced. Seven teams have been formed for law and order and they work in 12-hour shifts. Now, we hand over duty after our shifts. Earlier, we would come to the police station every morning and there was no specific time for returning home. Now, that’s not the case. After our 12-hour shift, we are only called 24 hours later,” he said. The head constable said he was able to see his family regularly and take care of their needs. “People in the police force are sometimes depressed because of work pressure and lack of time with family. This has helped us,” he said.

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