New Delhi, Sep 8 (IANS) Delhi Police vehicles will soon get spy cameras to keep an eye on the city's streets -- and their own men too.
Faced with frequent riotous situations, police have decided the best way to monitor the capital from the control room would be through cameras that would be fitted on the roof of its fleet. The cameras will be connected to a server at the police headquarters and in the offices of all 11 district police heads.
To begin with, a revolving CCTV camera has been mounted on a Maruti Gypsy with the New Delhi district police. Two frontal cameras have been installed on the bar light of two police control room (PCR) vans in outer Delhi.
In the latter case, the camera is rotated manually.
"If things go well, cameras will come up on all the 1,000 PCR vans," Special Commissioner of Police T.N. Mohan told IANS. The electronic eyes will help Delhi Police in more ways than one, officers say.
The decision to go for the cameras was taken following earlier and recent incidents of standoff between the police and mobs during protests -- and mass rallies.
Officers not at the site were also finding it difficult to verify allegations of police brutality on such occasions.
"The cameras will help officers to take decisions depending on the situation as they will monitor live videos and instruct their men on the spot," officer Mohan said. He doesn't hide the fact that the cameras will also help keep an eye on the police force too.
The first priority will be the 1,000-strong PCR fleet, which expanded recently with the addition of over 300 vehicles. The PCR vans are deployed across the capital and are often the first to reach a crime scene.
Delhi Police were accused in July of killing in cold blood a young biker near India Gate. Police denied the charge, saying an officer fired after stunt bikers attacked them. The family of the man who died denied this and has demanded that the officer be tried for murder. There were no independent witnesses to say who was right.
Last year, after the Dec 16 gang rape of a young woman, police were faced with widespread protests that turned violent. During one such demonstration, a police constable died. Police said he was attacked by some protesters, who denied the charge. Again, there were conflicting versions -- but no camera to capture the truth.
"In situations like these, cameras will be very useful," said an officer.
According to official statistics, Delhi witnessed 1,599 minor and major demonstrations last year in the New Delhi and Central Delhi police districts alone in which hundreds of thousands participated.
In the same area, there were 366 religious processions and gatherings.
The Indian capital saw some of the biggest public gatherings in 2011 when anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare fasted for a Lokpal bill, drawing hundreds of thousands at the sprawling Ramlila ground over 12 days.
And last year, his colleague Arvind Kejriwal held his show of strength in the heart of the city. Although police liberally employ men to video protests and mass gatherings, these can be viewed only later. Spy cameras mounted on police vehicles, say officers, will change the situation.
(Alok Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)