Police: “Meri Dost aur Sahayak!?”

“I’m not against the police; I’m just afraid of them.”
                                                                             – Alfred Hitchcock

All over the world, the police provoke many different emotions in every one of us. 

Just close your eyes for a short moment and think about your own experiences with the police.
What positive experiences can you think of? What experiences disappointed you? Most people can easily answer  both of these questions; this already shows how ambiguous the police are seen: the negative feelings seem to be much stronger than the positive ones.
In order to change  the negative associations which are mentioned by a lot of people when asked about the police, many countries are currently putting a lot of effort into movements of image improvement of the police.

IMAG2368It was my first week in India, when the Community Team of ETASHA Society took us to an event near their Career Development Center 2 in Tigri. The event was established and organised by ETASHA and the Delhi Police.
Both, the Police as well as ETASHA, are in close contact with the Community and know quite a lot about their lives; so why not organize a community awareness event together in order to inform them about new opportunities? In order to show the Delhiites that “WE CARE”, the police used this slogan in order to develop the  trust and confidence of the community in them.
IMAG3039Are the police seen as  a reliable institution that helps the Community to solve their problems, protects them and tries to reduce and avoid crimes? Or how exactly are the Delhi Police perceived by its citizens right now in 2013?”, was one of the questions I was asking myself. This was probably also one of the first thoughts that the ETASHA Team had when initiating the collaboration project with the Delhi police. They both know the community very well and could therefore assist each other when facing difficulties in the community.
The message to the community was clear: the police as well as ETASHA as an NGO want to be perceived in their roles of being  partners that support the community in their daily needs. In this particular event, they were addressing especially the following two major problems: UNEMPLOYMENT and CRIME.

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With banners, posters and hand-outs, the community had the chance to learn about how ETASHA and the police assist them with finding a job as well as how to make the community a safer place to live in. I was really impressed by the event, especially because of the fact that I could really feel how increasing numbers of people of the community became attracted and interested in what was happening.

IMAG2385They first looked down from their balconies or stayed in hidden corners to listen to Nitesh’s and Jeet’s words about the vocational training programs offered by ETASHA. It was interesting to observe how they slowly came closer to the table where the event was taking place.
People seemed to get enthusiastic about being an active part of changing their own environment and building trust towards  the police and started asking questions about the police and about the opportunities given by ETASHA. They started discussing among themselves and – even though my lacking Hindi skills made it difficult for me to follow their discussions – I could see in their faces that the discussions were related to the main topics.
It was a Sunday morning and to be honest, I was first sceptical whether such an event would attract people of the community and would be worth it for the ETASHA team to be working on a  precious free Sunday – But it definitely was. –

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I understood how important it is as an NGO to be close to the community, not only during the week, but also on a more quiet day, when the community has time to talk, to listen, to reflect and to discuss things they want to be changed in their lives.
What also impressed me that day was the positive cooperation of the police officers. I myself  am one of those people who are quite critical of the police. But the positive attitude of the police officers that I experienced that Sunday morning in Tigri was beginning to change my image of them.
While observing the “We Care” campaign in Tigri, I was reminded a lot of a very similar campaign that took place in my home country.  As in India today, the German police was constantly facing similar difficulties of having a bad reputation in society. Allegations of corruption, slow case turn-around times and discrimination against foreigners – which in Germany mainly relates to the 19 % of immigrants from Turkey, Italy, Greece and Eastern Europe – eroded the sympathy and trust towards the police enormously.

Over many years, the German police tried hard to change their bad image with a campaign called “Polizei – dein Freund und Helfer” – which in English translates to “Police – your friend and helper”. 

Polizei_friend_and_helperEven though the title of that German campaign now sounds quite exaggerated, over-romanticised and actually pathetic to me, at that time it did have an important impact on how society perceived the police. But after having seen the interactive community campaign of ETASHA and the Delhi police, I realize how much more effective the German campaign could have been if they would have been inspired by the Indian way of making the campaign much more vivid, interactive and closer to the communities.

But despite the different methodologies of the two campaigns – and the Indian way of doing it seems much more effective to me –  I do think that these campaigns can make a huge impact in improving the cooperation of the citizens with nearby NGOs and the police to a great extent – and hopefully contribute to avoiding future quotes like Alfred Hitchcock’s and rather have the police again in their original role as “supportive helpers” for society.

 

Johanna Mueller
Intern ETASHA Society

 

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