RAF trains cops in crowd control

Guwahati, Aug. 19: The elite Rapid Action Force (RAF) is training Assam police personnel in better crowd-control techniques to ensure the least damage to civilians and police in such situations.

The Assam police requested the RAF to train its personnel after drawing flak from various quarters for its inept handling of the June 22 anti-eviction rally that turned violent in Dispur.

Three persons, including a nine-year-old, had died in police action that day. At least 20 police personnel, including senior superintendent of police (city) Deepak Choudhury, had sustained injuries during the mob-police clash.

“To achieve better results in such situations, we have requested experts from the elite RAF to impart crowd-control training to our personnel,” a police source said.

RAF, which is a specialised wing of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) for riot control, has an excellent record of ensuring peace and harmony in the country during riots and communal tension.

The source said a six-member team of RAF instructors has been training the first batch of 69 Assam police personnel, including six probationary deputy superintendents of police, sub-inspectors, havildars and lance naiks, since July 25. The training for the first batch will end tomorrow.

The training is seen as a significant exercise for Assam police in updating the skills required to disperse unlawful assembly with minimum force and collateral damage.

“We hope it will go a long way in inculcating significant training skills in police personnel and will equip them with techniques to tackle large and unruly mobs in times of emergency without loss of life,” the source said.

The training modules include how to control a mob through persuasion by forming a chain/wall of police officials, using minimum force through water cannons, teargas and other non-lethal weapons such as stun grenade, dye grenade, stink bombs and rubber and plastic bullets to avoid loss of life. Mock drills and simulated exercises are part of the training programme.

The source said Assam police plan to hold more such trainings in a phased manner so that its personnel can control situations such as the one at Dispur with minimum casualties.

“Our priority is to ensure least damage to civilians and police personnel while dealing with law and order,” he said.

The source said training and logistics were two essential aspects of better professional policing and Assam police was focusing on both.

“We are not only improving the crowd-control skills of our personnel, we are also procuring the latest equipment and non-lethal weapons for controlling crowds,” he said.

Assam police have already procured sophisticated riot-control vehicles, vehicle-mounted water cannons, better protective gears, including steel and fibreglass helmets, lightweight batons and shields made of polycarbonate and gas masks, he added.

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