As an organization that has been in the community for 25 years, building strong relationships with other organizations in the area and creating a great rapport with government agencies has been vital to the success of our projects. One year ago, the Chithoor District Police Department decided to engage in a new initiative titled “The Community Police Force” and asked us join in the cause.
Due to years of miscommunication and unbalanced leadership, the police department in this district had received a bad reputation. People were often blasé at the mention of an issue being taken to the attention of the police and there was very little confidence that their problems would be taken seriously or resolved properly. Therefore, the idea behind this venture was to promote trust amongst community members with regards to the motives and work of the police department. To do this, they decided that the only way people could understand the police was to actively participate in the process.
For a month, our team along with three other organizations and the entire police team traveled to all parts of the district, advertising the opportunity to young men and women to change their trajectory and find a new path. This endeavor would not only provide skill development, but also offer academic scholarships to those who chose to pursue a higher education. If chosen to participate in the program, they would work with the police department five half days a week for a year; training, traveling, and aiding as needed. The idea was that if the community saw familiar faces as part of the police force, they would be more willing to come forward to present their problems and rely on the police department as a support system and not something to shy away from.
Within six months, the changes this project brought to the community were unbelievable. Adolescent girls and boys were sporting orange vests and the police badge with pride, and a renewed sense of confidence was instilled in people’s faces. Eventually, each participant received their own uniform of a blue shirt with their name and badge branded to the top right corner and a hat to wear, just like the real officers. They truly became a force in the community, as their presence was 60% more noticeable everywhere. In schools, they were talking to students, teachers, and administrators, acting immediately on any issues of violence or ragging. They were making door-to-door visits in villages and slums, tackling everything from trivial family concerns to serious issues of domestic violence and much more.
At the one year mark, a large survey was ordered by the Superintendent to understand if this new scheme had done what it was born to do, and the results were overwhelmingly positive. There were now plenty of young women and men who respected the police force and wanted to pursue this career path. Everyone previously working in the police department also admitted that they felt a heightened sense of responsibility as their job was now being scrutinized by the younger generation who they felt they needed to inspire. What was most beautiful to see was a new spirit in the little town of Madanapalle that was bringing this already tight-knit community, just a little bit closer.