How Delhi Police became a professional unit

The decision to appoint Sanjay Arora, an IPS officer of the 1988 batch from Tamil Nadu cadre, as Commissioner of Police (CP), Delhi is based purely on merit. I have watched him closely during my days in CRPF. He had worked in Naxal-affected areas as well as Jammu and Kashmir as inspector general and additional director general, respectively. I am certain that he will continue to display the work ethic that he displayed in the past and succeed in his present assignment.

Delhi, being the national capital, has strategic importance and the authorities responsible for law and order in the city remain in the public gaze. The Delhi Police has not only remained in the cross-hairs of our enemies but tremors are felt in the city whenever any upheaval takes place anywhere. Any breach of law and order in the city is, therefore, unacceptable. Below-par performance from the Delhi Police is easily discernable and has obvious consequences. The role of the Delhi CP, hence, is critical.

The force, in its long history, has experienced many highs and lows. Whenever the chips are down, it throws up officers and personnel who take up the toughest challenges. This force has had the benefit of commissioners with rich experience in handling challenging and tricky situations.

Ved Marwah was my first police commissioner when I reported to Delhi Police for field training fresh from the National Police Academy. Interestingly, he was not the first choice as Delhi’s CP in May 1985. In the aftermath of the 1984 riots, the primary task before the Delhi Police was to raise the morale of the demoralised police force and to bring it back on track after serious criticism of its handling of the riots. S S Jog, a Maharashtra cadre officer, who had replaced Subhash Tandon, a UP cadre officer, who was commissioner during the riots, was keen to return to his home state for personal reasons. Orders were issued to appoint Julio Ribeiro, another Maharashtra cadre officer, as CP of Delhi in April 1985. But before Ribeiro could join the Delhi Police, the city was rocked by a series of transistor bomb blasts in buses. In the next couple of days, more bomb blasts took place sending shock waves through the city. Marwah, then officiating CP, took charge and not only were the cases solved with the arrest of the terrorists in two days but any social disturbance as a fallout of the blasts was not allowed to happen. The leadership displayed by Marwah may have led the government to review its order appointing Ribeiro. He handled the situation admirably at a time when Sikh militancy was at its peak. He not only restored the pride of the force but took its morale to a new level. During those difficult times, he personally supervised the investigation of all major terror crimes and ensured that they were resolved.

Each commissioner who headed the force displayed a few specific abilities, which set them apart. One thing that was common to all, however, was the vision to make the Delhi Police an outfit equipped to handle contemporary needs. In the process, specialised units were created to deal with newer challenges, which involved meticulous training of the manpower and equipping them with the appropriate knowledge and tools.

The Delhi Police grew as a professional force through successive commissioners belonging to the Union Territories cadre (later renamed as AGMUT cadre). The foundation was laid during Marwah’s time and his successor, Raja Vijay Karan, another UT cadre officer, set in motion an image makeover of the Delhi Police. He initiated many citizen-centric programmes. He introduced openness in the Delhi Police by inviting workable ideas from officers and men of whatever rank and implementing them. This was a novel initiative for police organisations in India.

M B Kaushal, who was in the hot seat for three years in the early 1990s, knew his officers and men well. The “connect” he had with the personnel, cutting across ranks, made him popular in the force. He was followed by Nikhil Kumar, who demanded professionalism and commitment from his team. He would support his team, even at the risk of his job. As a young DCP, I had ordered a firing to disperse an unlawful crowd, which led to the death of three persons and injuries to many more. I was shaken at the loss of lives and other damages. Kumar visited the site of the incident and reassured me by placing his hand on my shoulder and saying that the police action was unavoidable in the circumstances. This had a positive impact and my confidence shot up. Such large-heartedness from the police leadership brushes off on young officers who try to imitate these habits when they are at the helm of affairs.

Yudhvir Dadwal had the onerous responsibility of preparing the force for the Commonwealth Games in 2010. He galvanised the organisation to provide seamless connectivity between the various facilities, impeccable security and incident-free crowd-management, earning praise from all concerned. One of his great contributions was modernising and laying down systems to eliminate arbitrariness in police functioning. High professional competence was the trademark of Neeraj Kumar. He would take a keen interest in the investigation of cases, whether terrorist crimes or economic offences. He was approachable to the public and used to come up with new ideas and schemes, especially in community policing.

The contributions of other police commissioners and officers I worked with were no less important in shaping the force into an effective professional unit.


The writer is a former Commissioner of Police, Delhi

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