Toys, toons, TV: Police Uncle won’t let you down
Traditionally, most children grow up fearing the police. When they act naughty they are often told by elders, “Stop warna police pakad legi!”. The flawed and clichéd representation of police in cinema also instills a false fear in the minds of young people. Even in the most distressing situations such as being lost in the mela or the railway station, they are hesitant of approaching a policeman.
Delhi Police is striving to change this perception with its unique initiative, Police Uncle. As part of the scheme, the Kalkaji Police Station houses an outdoor play area for children. The police station also has a child friendly room. Brightly painted walls with fun sketches, a television to watch cartoons, toys, drawing material, children books, and refreshments greet the children visiting the police station.
“Sometimes a child victim comes to police station or a victim may come accompanied with a child. In those situations, we found that we could create a place where the child could be meaningfully engaged while the police heard the grievances. We wanted to ensure that the child doesn’t feel out of place in the police station and spends the time comfortably,” says Amulya Patnaik, Commissioner of Police, Delhi.
Patnaik says that such initiatives will also lead to self introspection and reform among policemen and improve their attitude towards children. “When you have a child friendly room in a police station, it also helps policemen sitting in the police station realise that their job is not only to deal with antisocial and criminal elements. There may be situations where children will turn up at the police station and the policemen must know that they will have to behave with them appropriately. This will result in some kind of self introspection and a will to reform oneself as far as a conduct is concerned. They will reform their conduct in such a way that children feel comfortable in their presence,” says Patnaik.
Chinmoy Biswal, DCP, South East, too, hopes that this will go a long way in changing the image of a policewalla. “This initiative will surely do away with the fear and mistrust of police among children. Films and television often feed a lot of myths into the minds of young people, making them apprehensive of the police. We want to break these misconceptions. We want to present ourselves to the children and tell them that we are there for you,” he says.
Biswal recalls that once during his posting in the Andamans, a girl child who was abandoned was brought to the police station. “Someone gave her a football and she started playing with it. She was soon joined by some neighbourhood children. Her fear vanished and she felt very comfortable. It was a big learning that how small efforts can go a long way in making a child feel comfortable and secure,” he says.