Inspector Shalini Sharma can make criminals talk

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 15:51

Pooja Bhula

In classic small-heeled pumps, fitted narrow trousers, a colourful scarf, plain shirt, long hair, tall frame and a confident stride, Police Inspector Shalini Sharma--Extradition Cell, of Mumbai’s Crime Investigative Unit (CIU)—carries herself like one of Charlie’s Angels. CIU officers don’t wear uniforms. She is as alert as she is friendly—interrogating gangsters, terrorists, paedophiles and the like, for a living.

Two months ago, the Crime Branch arrested Theva Satish Kumar, of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), based on an Interpol alert issued by the Sri Lankan government. What was Shalini’s role? “We verified the intelligence received, and alerted police stations, immigration and other teams.”

Following an arrest, the person is presented in court and taken into custody for questioning. “The interrogation went on for 24 hours! He was lying and I knew it. The stamp on his passport was fake.”

As per media reports, Kumar first said he came by air, but later revealed he arrived via sea. He would have been caught, boarding a flight from Sri Lanka.

“I don’t use third degree. I make them speak-up without breaking laws. Criminals don’t expect decency of this sort, so at first, they think I will go soft on them. But, with 23 years of experience, I know how to make people comfortable, I know how to make them talk,” is her unique approach.

From Scotland Yard to Interpol

No wonder she was chosen for a $10,000 scholarship to learn Hostage Negotiation and Crisis Management from Scotland Yard. “In 2008, we didn’t have negotiators to look into lacunae during terror attacks. So the Rotary Club and Mumbai Police took the initiative. 12 candidates, initially selected based on age and police experience, were narrowed to six, three, and finally one.”
Two months ago, the Crime Branch arrested Theva Satish Kumar, of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), based on an Interpol alert issued by the Sri Lankan government. What was Shalini’s role? “We verified the intelligence received, and alerted police stations, immigration and other teams.”

Following an arrest, the person is presented in court and taken into custody for questioning. “The interrogation went on for 24 hours! He was lying and I knew it.

The stamp on his passport was fake.” As per media reports, Kumar first said he came by air, but later revealed he arrived via sea. He would have been caught, boarding a flight from Sri Lanka.

“I don’t use third degree. I make them speak-up without breaking laws. Criminals don’t expect decency of this sort, so at first, they think I will go soft on them. But, with 23 years of experience, I know how to make people comfortable, I know how to make them talk,” is her unique approach.

From Scotland Yard to Interpol

No wonder she was chosen for a $10,000 scholarship to learn Hostage Negotiation and Crisis Management from Scotland Yard. “In 2008, we didn’t have negotiators to look into lacunae during terror attacks. So the Rotary Club and Mumbai Police took the initiative. 12 candidates, initially selected based on age and police experience, were narrowed to six, three ,and finally one.”

In her brief tenure as chief counsellor, Shalini thwarted a suicide attempt. “In interviews, Rotary gauged our international exposure and ability to handle sensitive matters. Officers tested our knowledge, language, and presentation skills. Working in the Extradition Cell since 2004 helped, as I was in regular contact with consulates. Confidence and interest matter too.” Her training lasted two weeks.

She acquainted herself with the British Transport Police, London Police and New Scotland Yard Police, London, and wanted other officers to be trained too.

“Crisis management isn’t a one-person job. I convinced my seniors to get two officers from Scotland Yard to Mumbai. Eventually, 17 officers were trained. With the remaining scholarship money, I got permission to familiarise myself with Interpol in Lyon, France.”

Traffic Department in 1993

Shalini has handled portfolios ranging from law and order to the computerisation of a commissionerate. But her face lights up at the mention of the Thane Traffic Police Department. “I joined as traffic officer and had a team of 15 women constables. We were the first batch of women to get this role. The experience was thrilling. I rode a Bullet, chased trucks and looked into traffic engineering. The public appreciated my work and demanded speed breakers and reflectors. Others were upset, because I didn’t let anyone off without a fine.”

Fitness and Family

The former Indian University level volleyball player’s fitness quotient hasn’t decreased. She watches her diet, gyms from 9pm-10pm when possible, or swims and takes brisk walks. “I’ve had clashes with my husband and sometimes feel my sons are neglected. But whoever joins the police is prepared for stress, physical demands, and difficulties it may cause to family life.”

Plans for future

She has a diploma in cyber crime and intends to learn forensic investigation and acquire weapons training.



First Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 14:38

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