After crime branch, Mumbai Police's EOW officials to face 'clean up'
- Officers serving in the Economic Offenses Wing (EOW) for over four years would now be shunted out.
After the crime branch, the Economic Offenses Wing (EOW) of Mumbai Police could be the next department to face a 'clean up' drive initiated by the new Mumbai commissioner of police Hemant Nagrale, said people privy to the development.
Nagrale, who has taken up the uphill task of cleaning up the city police force and shunted out over 65 crime branch officers (who served in the crime branch for over five years), has now decided to give a similar treatment to the EOW.
Generally, a police officer is supposed to serve at a post for three years and then transferred to another posting, however, people aware of the developments in the EOW said some officers have been in the department for over six years merely by switching their postings within the department during transfers. Now, all these officers would be moved out to other police departments, which could be local police stations or side branches.
“Once such officers are transferred, about 45-50% posts of EOW officers would go vacant. These posts would be filled up with the new officers,” said an EOW officer, requesting anonymity.
The EOW officers expecting transfers are now busy winding up old cases which are with them for years, HT has learnt.
Unlike the sudden order for the crime branch and its immediate implementation, the transfers in the EOW would be effected during regular general transfers in June. “Immediate remedial measures with the crime branch were need of the hour to send a strong message across a particular department, but same was not the case with the EOW,” said a police officer from the headquarters.
Joint commissioner of police (EOW) Niket Kaushik, who is known for his upright approach in decision making, recently issued an order to all EOW unit heads, hinting at the possible transfers. Kaushik's order (a copy of which is with HT) stated, "Possible transfers of those officers who are completing four years in EOW as of May 31, 2021, cannot be ruled out in upcoming general transfers (which occurs every year in June). Hence all unit heads are hereby directed that henceforth not to give such officers the investigation of new cases."
After controversies surrounding the crime branch’s tainted officer Sachin Vaze and former police commissioner Param Bir Singh's transfer, the Maharashtra government in mid-March entrusted DGP Hemant Nagrale with the responsibility of bringing back the lost glory of Mumbai Police.
After taking charge on March 17, Nagrale started by taking on those cops who might have had developed proximity with unwarranted elements by enjoying long tenure in the same department. Within six days of joining, he shunted out 65 crime branch officers.
Explaining these transfers Rajkumar Vhatkar, joint commissioner of police (Administration) said, “The transfers of policemen are governed by the Police Act where the prescribed service tenure is defined. Since crime branch officers require special skills which are acquired out of experience in the field, they were kept in the branch for a long time for administrative convenience. But of late, it is observed that some of the officers developed vested interests. Hence, objective criteria was applied and all the officers who completed five years in the branch at a stretch or have over 10 years of service with some break in between, have been transferred out.”
By inducting new officers in the branch, the department feels some fresh perspective can be brought in, which will help strengthen the crime branch and infuse zeal and enthusiasm.
Another senior IPS officer said, “The commissioner's clean up drive aims to uproot the nexus or connivance of policemen with the wrong elements that ultimately encourage corruption in the police department. Such nexus or connivance makes policemen overconfident and makes them indulge in unethical practices which eventually could lead to another API Sachin Vaze-like episode that has brought tremendous embarrassment, shame and disrepute to Mumbai Police, once considered a highly reputed police force in the country."
Citing Vaze's example, a senior IPS officer said that he was given a completely free hand by former commissioner Singh and was so patronised by his godfather that he had become super arrogant. “He would come to the police headquarters in high-end private cars, issue orders to officers in any department, not respecting colleagues and not even saluting the senior police officers. Such arrogance makes a policeman more vulnerable in breaching the discipline,” a senior officer said on condition of anonymity.
Those policemen who have been serving at the police stations of Mumbai for over five years will also be transferred and would be posted at side branches soon. “If a policeman serves at a post for a longer period then he forms groups around him and is bound to indulge in unethical practices, therefore transfers are necessary, another senior IPS officer said. The process has already been started with the constabulary at several police stations,” the officer added.
HT has learnt that not just the crime branch and the EOW but many other important departments at the headquarters would also be covered under the move. “Police personnel posted at various departments that look after the licensing and permissions for dance bars, permit rooms, hotels and other establishments would also be transferred if serving at the same office for long period,” said an officer.
"Transferring policemen doesn't mean that all those who have been transferred are corrupt. Many of them served the force exceptionally well and earned respect, name and fame. The practice (of transfers) is aimed at sending out a message that it is the system that has made them big and achieve expertise in a field, and not vice versa. No one is above the system. Others should also get the opportunity to hone their skills and serve society. Overstaying at one post make policemen vulnerable to wrongful and unethical practices, who then willingly or unwillingly become part of the system designed to benefit wrong people," said another IPS officer.
When asked about other measures he plans to take to bring back the lost pride of Mumbai Police and retain people's faith in the force, Nagrale said, “You'll (soon) know when it's done.”
He refused to elaborate further on the transfer’s strategy in the EOW and other departments.