Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A New Hue of Hope: Khaki

My passport renewal has had me getting in and out a police station. Most normal people avoid the police station… it is an unfortunate place to be, whatever side you are on. But is it really that bad?

While I was waiting it out at the station for my passport verification, along with some 20 other people, I had a fine experience. This post is about that little meeting that happened that made me feel that Coldplay may have been completely right… Everything’s not lost!

When the 20 or so of us were twiddling our thumbs, looking anxiously at our watches, losing sensation on our bums or shifting our weight from one leg to the other while waiting for the cops to start the verification process… one of them came over and asked all of us to assemble in the Senior Inspector’s office. It was quite a large office with a typical, high level officer’s table at one end and the rest of the room empty… except it had been filled with plastic chairs and we were all asked to make ourselves comfortable. None of us had a clue about what was going on or what was about to happen.

There was a phone number in a large font stuck to one of the cork-boards behind the desk. The cop who ushered us in asked us to jot down the number. Soon, the Senior Inspector walked in… some of us stood up to wish him, most of us didn't... I didn't  ... but we all wished him a good evening and he returned the courtesy.

Then he asked us what we thought of cops, of the police in general. Now, that was a loaded question especially from a cop, in his domain. Of course, no one answered! He then went on to say that there is quite a distance between the common man and a cop… some of it is because of fear, some of it is caused by hatred and quite a lot of it is caused by our cynicism towards the cops. There are honest cops and then there are the ones that give the whole system a bad reputation… yet, we as common people never consider the majority of the cops who are honest people doing their jobs when we call the police system worthless. The Indian Police system is one of the best in the world and that cannot be without a reason… and especially not based on just the bad apples in the basket.

The inspector told us that he had a vision for his town… a safe and secure Nerul, and it was part of a larger effort of closing the distance between the common man and the cop. I am sure, like me the rest of us in the room were impressed and quite glad that a cop was taking the initiative for something good. But, that wasn't why he had called us in. It wasn't just to tout what he was doing for us… he wanted to tell us a few things we could do for ourselves and thus be a part of his vision for the town and in the process better our lives quite a bit.

In the half hour we were there with him in his office, he talked to us about some of the steps we as citizens could take to be alert and to ensure our safety and the safety of our immediate surroundings.

If we think about it, how many of us would take the effort to report a crime we have seen happen… nobody wants to be a witness unless forced to. We all would rather walk away from a scene of crime, totally blind to what is going on. How many of us have actually stopped a moment to think if there is something we could do to stop the crime from happening?  All we might need to do in most cases is raise some noise and attract the attention of people nearby when a crime is being committed by someone. That alone may encourage others to join in the noise making and perhaps cause the would-be criminal to flee/stop. In this age of mobile phones…we could even call up the nearest police station and inform them of what is happening. The police aren't omniscient and cannot be aware of every crime that is happening around them unless someone reports them. Isn't it better if we report it while it happens and while helping stop it in some way (I have seen an ad about a mobile in which two girls alert a constable about harassment in the same manner). So, it is not out of the ordinary to do so. We can do it but we choose not to… and then we stand aside to blame the police force completely for things we as alert citizens could have prevented.

After his talk… which was well thought out and not condescending in any way… at least the few people in that room would have returned home with a better perspective of the citizen-cop-criminal relationship. At least, some of us would understand that the growing distance between the keepers of law and the citizens is one of the major reasons for the emboldened criminal and hence the rise in crime.

Kudos to the inspector for taking time out from his schedule and educating at least the few of us who he could manage to get as an audience and trying to spread an awareness among them.  By his own admission, he does not get much of an audience… so he manages with the people who come in for police verification and rental NOC and such.

Yes, it is weird and somewhat unfortunate that nobody invites cops to any function to speak a few words… movie stars maybe, politicians even… but never a cop. The Inspector gave us his number and said that he would come to any building society which wants him to talk on security measures the occupants of a building can take to avoid break-ins and thefts and other such issues. His talk was not just about the disconnect between the system and people, but he had a lot of practical tips and ways in which we could all be alert and that much safer.

I think his tips require a post on their own… I’ll compile them and put them up later.

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