Bengaluru: The Tamil Nadu Police has taken 80 policemen off duty because they “need behavioural correction”, as a response to the custodial deaths of Jayaraj (also spelt as Jeyaraj) and his son Bennix (also spelt as Fenix) in Sathankulam, Thoothukudi.
Tiruchirappalli range DIG V. Balakrishnan, the IPS officer leading the pilot project, told ThePrint that the 80 policemen marked for their behaviour will undergo a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) programme.
The deaths of Jayaraj and Bennix, due to alleged torture by policemen, sparked widespread outrage and public debate on police atrocities. Six policemen have been suspended in the case while 26 others have been transferred.
Jayaraj and Bennix were arrested on 19 June after the Sathankulam police claimed they had kept their mobile phone store open beyond the timings allowed under lockdown rules. On 22 June, the family was informed that Bennix had died at the government hospital, with Jayaraj dying the next day.
Soon after the incident came to light, several other cases of suspected police custodial deaths were reported, forcing the Tamil Nadu police to initiate reforms.
Under CBT, the policemen’s individual behaviour patterns during service will be studied, as will their family background and mental health condition.
“These behaviours may be latent during the recruitment process, but when the men come on the field and face situations, that’s when their real personality reflects. Their behaviour could be related to factors like a violent childhood, single parent upbringing etc. We would like to get to understand their experiences to help them,” DIG Balakrishnan said.
Balakrishnan himself has been at the forefront of introducing several programmes related to police reforms — as SP in Madurai, his work towards identifying issues of mental health and providing assistance within the force had garnered appreciation.
He added that the list of 80 policemen was drawn up based on three factors — poor anger management, talking to the public in an impatient manner using offensive language, and use of force.
“The use of force is categorised based on two cornerstones — necessity and proportionality,” Balakrishnan explained.
The list has been drawn up not just based on complaints from the public, but also on data and reports filed by the Special Branch and sub-divisional officers’ feedback.
“We will submit a report at the end of this specially-designed course, and if found successful, it will extended to all the divisions across the state. On completion of this programme, the officers will gradually be reintegrated into regular duties,” Balakrishnan said.