Rubbing shoulders with the Khaki-clad forces may not be the average school student's idea of a fun trip, but when it actually happened, it left many a young mind pondering the various aspects of community safety.
To commemorate ‘World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse', the police organised an open house for school children in 84 police stations across the city followed by an oratorical competition on ‘My visit to the Police Station,' on Monday. An interaction wherein children from 22 schools posed various questions and shared their experiences of the visit with the Commissioner of Police T. Rajendran and other senior police officers was the highlight of the day.
The interaction revealed that from court records, boards displaying the history of the police stations and photographs of missing people to communication sets used by the police personnel to transmit information, the children loved it all. Besides the advanced fingerprint recognition system that generated a lot of enthusiasm, the students showed an interest to know more about the rifles, pistols, guns and the patrol cars used by the police.
While many children were eager to know the minimum age for joining the force, Sushen Kumar, a student of St. John's Matriculation Higher Secondary School, wondered if the dungeon-like jails really lacked basic amenities. R. Balajee of Dhanish Matriculation Higher Secondary School, on the other hand, seemed thrilled to flaunt his knew-found knowledge of the police hierarchy by deftly summarising the division of zones down to districts and ranges, and shifts the police operate in. While some asked interesting questions about the stars on the uniform and the procedure of lodging a complaint, many talked about how stern-looking policemen offered them useful advice on being safe during the visit.
For those who have always held a fascination for the police forces such as M.A.Aadhil of Dhanish Matriculation Higher Secondary School, the visit only deepened the interest. “I like listening to brave encounters and the intelligent rescue operations the police does, but now I know it is all not that easy.”
The interaction also saw a few share thoughts on some substantial issues. "The question of child abuse is being discussed openly now and with such awareness and support from officials, it will be easier to confront it," said R. Abhirami, a parent of an eight-year-old. Many had their share of suggestions too. “When I looked into the kind of fighting equipment used to tackle city crime, I thought we should have modern gadgets that can be faster and more effective,” said V. Dinesh of SBIOA Model Matriculation Higher Secondary School.
R. Parthiban of SBIOA Model Matriculation Higher Secondary School was vocal in his concern about the poor police to people ratio in the city. “Policemen, for all the risks they take, should be provided more security and salaries too," he said.
At a time when many questions are being raised on child safety, most students felt that this visit cleared many myths they associate with policemen.
C. Sathiyaseelan , a teacher at St. John' s Matriculation Higher Secondary School, said that Road Safety Patrols should be given more priority in schools, and not be treated as just another activity as they enable children to learn traffic rules and follow them instinctively besides inspiring their peers and parents to do so.
The objective, according to Vidya Reddy of Tulir, was to dispel the prevailing notion among children, due to social conditioning and the media, that the police are unapproachable and not child-friendly. Children need to understand how the police work so that as future complainants or accused, they would know better, she said.
Re-iterating the guidelines of safety, Mr. Rajendran said that besides knowing the numbers of various helplines, children should take care not to talk to strangers, and maintain a distance from drivers who transport them to school. Instances of kidnappings are less, but it is always better for parents to have the contact numbers and other details of the persons children normally have to interact with. He added that tolerance, developed in the initial years of life, would go a long way in building a safe and secure society. “Childhood is a formative yet beautiful time when you learn to be united despite social and economic differences,” he said. A quiz on child rights and civic responsibilities was also part of the programme. The students, later, were treated to lunch with the Commissioner of Police.