The long arm of the law will now come accessorised with a designer tote. Delhi Police has launched a line of apparel, handbags, backpacks, duffel bags, purses, wallets, belts, caps, cufflinks, keychains and other accessories that it hopes will appeal to the aam janta. Drawing on the police uniform for its khaki-with-red-and-blue-accents colour palette, the line has been created “after deep research, keeping in mind the global trends, duties and responsibilities of police, and public expectations,” says designer Ritu Beri who has collaborated on the project. The purpose of the project, according to a police spokesperson: “A branded range of merchandise forms a strong connection with its consumers, evoking admiration and aspiration amongst youngsters.”
Whether cops have matched or missed the pulse of today’s youth, will be revealed by the sales figures, but the attempt to reach out is laudable. For far too long, the khaki uniform has formed a seemingly impassable barrier between the one who wears it and the rest. It has survived as an instrument of state, run in the name of the British crown earlier, and the Indian people now — inspiring, many would argue, the same fear. Police departments elsewhere in India too have identified this persisting fear and distance as a gulf that needs to be bridged. They have sought to do so in different ways — from Mumbai Police’s witty tweets on matters of public interest to Kerala Police’s dance videos that tried to spread awareness about handwashing and social distancing during the public health emergency.
Yet, even as it woos the young people of Delhi, the Capital’s cops would do well to remember, as would police forces everywhere, that such moves are no replacement for reform. Compassion, accessibility, fairness and empathy would be far more effective for forming a connection with the public than the trendiest tote bag.