As the number of deaths during an ongoing police recruitment drive here touched five, City Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria on Wednesday took responsibility for them.

“As the leader of the force, I take the blame,” he said.

Four deaths were in Mumbai and one was in Thane. The latest was of Gahininath Latpate, 24, who undertook the physical test on June 14. He started his run at 7.30 a.m. but collapsed on the ground at 8.30 a.m. He died in a hospital on Tuesday night.

“From now, the physical tests will be conducted only during evening,” Mr. Maria said. “Also, a team of 100 medical students and doctors from government medical colleges will be stationed on the spot and will examine every candidate before allowing him to undertake the five-kilometre run.”

He was on a visit to Ghatkoper in Central Mumbai, where the recruitment exercise is being conducted.

In a complaint with the Mumbai Police, Kirit Somaiya, MP, sought an investigation into the deaths. An investigation is already being headed by Joint Commissioner, Crime, Sadanand Date.

The autopsy report of one of the dead, Prasad Mali, 19, whose application was with the Thane rural police, says he had dengue.

Asked about an official circular asking the police to complete the morning test by 9 a.m., Mr. Maria said it was not practical. “We will then have to stretch the test period and since the candidates are from a poor background, they cannot afford to prolong their stay in Mumbai,” he said.

The Mumbai Police this year received 1.18-lakh applications for 2,570 posts of constable. As many as 52,835 of them were selected for a ground test, and 30,196 appeared for it. As many as 13,463 candidates are yet to take the test. The last date of the test has been extended from June 21 to June 28.