Post-overhaul, Kerala's Sherlock Holmes to be jack of all trades

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The CB is the specialized investigation wing of Kerala Police that investigates cases that are entrusted to it by the State Police Chief or the Government or the High Court of Kerala.
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Thiruvananthapuram: The state's secret service will not only be called by a new name but will be subjected to a radical restructuring. Crime Branch Crime Investigation Department (CBCID) will henceforth be simply known as Crime Branch (CB).

More importantly, specialisation will give way to efficiency of functioning. The CB, which till now was compartmentalised into separate units for different kinds of crimes, will now be divided into district units. If earlier there were sub-units to deal with separate categories of crimes, from now on each district unit will investigate all types of crimes that come under its jurisdiction.

Over-specialisation

As it stands, the CBCID has three major wings. Hurt and Homicide Wing (murder, rape, dacoity, offences against women, fatal road traffic accidents, attempt to murder); Organised Crime Wing (substance abuse, abkari offences, offences related to arms and explosives, extortion, sedition, arson, human trafficking, kidnapping); and Economic Offences Wing (banks and chit fund frauds, investment frauds, job rackets, visa and education frauds, foreign currency trading frauds, land encroachment using forged documents). Each wing is headed by an IG, who is supported by three to four superintendents of police.

Over the years, with the complexity of the crimes increasing, the department added more units, some with overlapping functions, and put them under the charge of an SP. The Cyber Crime Police Station and the Hi-Tech Crime Enquiry Cell deal more or less with the same types of crimes: source code theft, child pornography, hacking of bank accounts and websites, smartphone offences, cyber terrorism.

Another unit is the Anti-Piracy Cell, which works as a central unit to coordinate collection of intelligence, to create a database, and to coordinate investigation on Copyright offences by local police. Then there are Special Temple Anti-Theft Squad, and Internal Security Investigation team, which deals with criminal cases affecting the security of the state, and offences having inter-state ramifications like the ones committed by Maoists and communal outfits.

Disadvantage of specialisation

The problem with the existing system is that each SP under a specific CBCID wing has to man four to five districts. “This meant an SP took time to move from one crime scene to the other. Timely intervention was becoming increasingly difficult. Since timing is crucial in any investigation, such an arrangement was not only delaying justice but at times had even stopped the investigation dead in its tracks,” a Crime Branch IG said. For instance, the Economic Offences Wing SP posted in Kottayam will also have to take care of cases in Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Palakkad.

The arrangement is problematic for victims and witnesses, too. Since the IG or the SP of one wing is based in a particular district, those in faraway districts have to travel all the way to the headquarters to testify and for other case-related activities.

There were also hierarchical issues. “Take for instance a DySP of a sub-unit like the homicide wing posted in Alappuzha. His superior, the SP of the wing, but would be based in another district, say, Thiruvananthapuram. This would virtually leave him headless in Alappuzha because the officer superior to him, or the CBCID SP in Alappuzha, would be in charge of another wing, say the economic offences wing. The economic offences SP will technically have no control over the DySP of the homicide wing. There are many such cases across the state, and this has led to issues of insubordination," the officer said.

Boss of all cases

Therefore, under the new system, the IG and the Crime Branch SPs will be in charge of all cases handed over to the CB in the district, irrespective of their nature. The specialisation will be only at the level of six to seven DySPs in a district. Cases as a result will be easily within their reach and control. Even under the new arrangement, Kollam, Kozhikode and Kannur SPs will have additional charge of one more district but they will be given more units under their command.

The CB is the specialized investigation wing of Kerala police that investigates cases that are entrusted to it by the state police chief or the government or the High Court. It investigates sensational crimes or complicated and serious offences which have statewide ramifications or those that had gone unsolved because the local cops were not able to investigate properly either for want of time or skills.

The CBCID is normally given 700-800 cases every year for investigation. At the moment, it is investigating over 3,000 crimes. It is also the nodal agency for Interpol related matters in the state and conducts verification or inquiries on behalf of Interpol.

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