Unit formed in ’80s to tackle gangs to be given new tasks, Mumbai Police revives its Special Operations Squad

Mohamed Thaver
Officers attached to the SOS are drawn from Mumbai Police, who received commando training by the Force One or QRT.

A Crime Branch unit comprising some of the best officers of the Mumbai Police, set up in the 1980s, has been revived. The Special Operations Squad (SOS) was created by the then Joint Commissioner of Police (crime) Arvind Inamdar in 1989 to combat smuggling and underworld activities. However, after these threats waned and with the formation of Quick Response Teams (QRTs) that functioned on similar lines, the unit was tottering along for nearly a decade now. Police Commissioner Sanjay Barve has assigned newer tasks to the SOS and they have also got a new uniform.

Barve said, The SOS unit was in disuse and needed to be revamped. It needed better weapons, better training and better understanding that were provided for.

According to Deputy Commissioner of Police (protection) Pradeep Sawant, to whom SOS reports, the unit was created through a Government Resolution (GR) on January 11, 1989. During that time, smuggling was a menace in Mumbai with several gangs, including those headed by Karim Lala, Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim.

Talking to The Indian Express, Inamdar said, Gang war began in the early 80s and reached its peak in a few years. We realised that traditional policing would not work for the terror these gangs spread. So, we set up an elite unit of some of the best officers, equipped with modern weapons and bulletproof jackets, so that they could face these gangsters directly.

He added, They got higher pay and underwent training daily that included running for 5 to 6 km, rope climbing, rappelling and were also put on a special diet. Once I left, however, it was not encouraged with the same enthusiasm. Had their training continued, they could have been our first line of defence during the 26/11 terror attacks. It is great to know that the unit is being revived.

Sawant said soon after the new commissioner took over, firstly the posts in the unit were filled up. The units were now sent to several vital installations across the city so that they can familiarise themselves so that in case of an emergency they are aware of the terrain, Sawant said. An officer said while Force One and QRT set up after the 26/11 terror attacks where the National Security Guard (NSG) had to be called in to combat the terrorists – are there in the city, they normally practise in controlled environments.

Officers attached to the SOS are drawn from Mumbai Police, who received commando training by the Force One or QRT. In addition to that, familiarisation with the terrain will give them an added advantage in case of an operation, an officer said.

As of now, there are four officers, 20 constables and five head constables. In addition, there are six drivers working in shifts and four vehicles. They have also been provided modern arms such as MP4s, SLR and AK 56.

In addition, we have also got a black uniform made for them that has the SOS logo emblazoned across it. The aim is to have them occupy the same pride of place they once enjoyed in the force, Sawant added.