Bengaluru’s Deputy Commissioner of Police (Southeast) Chandrashekar K Baba has suspended two policemen from the Bandepalya Police Station in the city for allegedly planting a ‘marijuana’ twig in a 19-year-old’s backpack and then extorting him.
The duo allegedly took ₹2,500 from the youth, accusing him of being in possession of narcotics.
The teen subsequently took to social media to narrate his ordeal.
The incident happened at night, when patrol policemen are expected to wear body cameras to record their interactions and confrontations with suspects and members of the general public.
Apparently, in this case, the body cameras of the cops were not switched on when the alleged incident took place.
When asked why the cameras were not switched on, the policemen duo did not have answers, a senior police officer told South First.
The incident happened last week — on 11 January — when one Vaibhav Patil, a native of Himachal Pradesh who stays as a paying guest in HSR Layout, was on his way home from his night-shift work.
According to the police, Patil came to Bengaluru six months ago, and started working at a BPO as an intern.
He works the night shift and regularly takes a bike taxi to return him.
Around 3.45 am on Wednesday, Patil was heading home after booking a bike taxi when two policemen stopped the bike near Ayyappa Temple in HSR Layout.
On the pretext of checking Patil’s bag, the policeman apparently shoved something like a marijuana plant’s twig into his backpack and accused him of possession and consumption of drugs.
A shocked Patil later took to Twitter to post that one of two cops produced a “marijuana twig” out of nowhere and sneaked it into his backpack.
Tagging senior police officials and news outlets, he said the cops then started questioning him and forced him to falsely confess to an offence.
When Patil refused to confess, the cops started threatening that they would foist a case on him, and said they would get a reward of ₹15,000 each for apparently busting a drug cartel and arresting him.
After sending away his Rapido taxi rider, whom Patil paid ₹100 for the ride until HSR Layout, the cops demanded that he come to the police station.
The police duo then pretended to take him on their bike — making him sit in the middle, riding triples — to a hospital for a “medical examination”.
They, however, took a detour and reached an isolated place, where they allegedly demanded that Patil pay them some amount or face arrest.
The cops checked his bank account, and found that he had around only ₹4,000, he alleged.
They asked him to get the amount from the ATM, but he told them that he did not have his card. Finally, the two policemen took away ₹2,500 from him and let him go with a warning not to venture out at night.
Victim speaks up
Patil mentioned all the minute details of his ordeal in his since-deleted Twitter post.
He also asked them how he was supposed to work and earn a living if he could not go out at night.
Patil’s tweet went viral. Senior police officials who were tagged in it took note of the incident and contacted him.
DCP (Southeast) Chandrashekar K Baba told Patil he could get in touch with him directly on his phone number, and that he would help him out.
Patil deleted his tweet thread and got in touch with the DCP, who asked him to come to his office to file a complaint.
On 13 January, Vaibhav met with the DCP and gave his statement in writing to the senior cop, who ordered a departmental inquiry on the two policemen.
The cops — one of them a police constable and another a head constable — attached to the Bandepalya Police Station have since been suspended for dereliction of duty.
“Based on the enquiry report, disciplinary action has been initiated against two constables from the Bandepalya Police Station for dereliction of duty,” the DCP told South First.
“One of the reasons the two policemen were suspended was that they did not switch on their body-worn cameras, as they should have for any interaction with a suspect or a member of the general public,” he added.
“There are around 50 body-worn cameras with the Southeast police stations alone, and the night-beat patrol teams have been advised and trained to use these body-worn cameras during such interactions,” Baba said.
However, there are no hard and fast rules — definite standard operation procedures (SOPs) or guidelines — for the use of these body-worn cameras.
Local police personnel have been trained by senior police officers at each station on how to switch it on and off, and each camera has a recording time of more than the shift duration — eight to 10 hours.
“The use of body-worn cameras by the cops is for transparency in policing — just to make sure that both the policemen and the public are aware that their interactions are being recorded. It could be used against either of them in a court of law if disputes arise,” said a senior police officer who wished to remain anonymous.