Unlike the Indian Army and paramilitary forces such as the Central Reserve Police Force, Mumbai police issued bulletproof jackets incapable of withstanding bullets fired from AK-47 assault rifles, used in the 26/11 terror attack here in 2008, and self-loading rifles (SLRs), also used by terrorists.
Family members of Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare have alleged he was killed because he was wearing a substandard bulletproof jacket.
The jacket was reportedly dumped in a garbage heap after Karkare’s death and never found.
Karkare and more than 100 Mumbai policemen, including commandos from the Quick Reaction Team, were wearing bulletproof jackets capable of withstanding only bullets fired from 9mm pistols and .38 revolvers commonly used by gangsters – not terrorists. This was despite the fact that Mumbai had been a target of terror attacks and bomb blasts since 2003.
A report on tests conducted on the jackets finally purchased by the Mumbai police in December 2004 stated the jackets were no guarantee of protection against AK-47s, SLRs and 9mm carbines. Only the metallic ballistic plate areas, covering the chest area and part of the back, could protect the wearer against such weapons.
The report on the quality of the jackets was sent to the then Mumbai Police Commissioner A.N. Roy. But that didn’t stop the police top brass giving the go-ahead to procure these jackets. Roy was not available for comment.
“The [bulletproof] jackets were to be purchased in 2001 to deal with encounters with gangsters who use small arms. We bought it three years later. How could we have seen the future?” a senior police officer.
“Considering that Mumbai has faced terrorists with automatic weapons in the past and the threat perception for the city has always been high, authorities should have purchased the bulletproof jackets which could withstand fire from automatic weapons like AK-47s,” said J.K. Dutt, former director general of the National Security Guard.
The army and paramilitary forces use jackets, which do not contain any metallic ballistic plates. They have more layers of laminated synthetic fibre and are lighter than the jackets the Mumbai police were using during the 26/11 attack.