Policemen have welcomed the department's decision to arm constables who patrol the city's streets at night, saying it would boost their morale.
This will be for the first time ever that constables are being provided with light arms.
Sanjay Shintre, deputy commissioner of police (zone 7) told HT that the move would send a right message to the constabulary. "It will show them that someone cares for them and, at the same time, prove to be a deterrent to those who might think of attacking on-duty policemen," Shintre said.
The police department decided to give constables on night duty firearms after two constables from Pant Nagar police station at Ghatkopar were attacked by armed robbers fleeing after looting a jewellery store early on Thursday morning.
A constable from the Local Arms division said that it would boost the confidence of those who go out on night rounds. "Instead of a baton, they will now have an assurance that if they are attacked, they will be able to fight back with a firearm," the constable said, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
He said that a constable is familiar with weapons because they are trained every year.
Joint commissioner of police (law and order) Rajnish Seth said although there is a provision to provide arms to constables, it did not materialise earlier because of a shortage of arms.
After the terror attacks of November 26, 2008, the armory became flush with weapons and all policemen, including constables, were made to undergo routine firing practice with at least 21 rounds in a year, to hone their skills. Before 26/11, constables did not have their mandatory firing practice because of scarcity of bullets.
"Once they [the constables] have arms, they will be in a position to deal with armed criminals effectively," Seth said.
Some officers are not too enthused about the move. "Possessing a firearm doesn't make one courageous. It requires guts to fire. It won't come even if the constables are given assault rifles," the officer. Others fear that with firearms, the constables might get high-handed and could misuse the power that comes with the weapon.