Good cops, bad cops

No wonder for mothers in villages, the word 'police' comes very handy.

One afternoon, a couple of years ago, when I was on my way to the airport by car, belonging to the company I was working with, it was stopped by a traffic constable just as we had passed an intersection. The driver and I were equally surprised because we had not committed any traffic offence then, warranting our being stalled. The cop took out a diary from his pocket and started turning its pages rapidly.

Soon he came upon one and told us that on so-and-so date our car had run the red light at the same intersection as we had crossed now. He had whistled to stop the car to ticket the driver, but the vehicle sped away. It was a near three-month old entry in his diary.  The constable let us go only after collecting the fine from us against a receipt. He asked us to preserve the receipt to avoid double payment of fine on receipt of the infringement notice from the department.

I couldn’t help admiring the cop’s phenomenal memory in remembering vehicle numbers.  If the saying, ‘An elephant never forgets’ is true, this policeman had a memory like an elephant.

In cities policemen are as ubiquitous as potholes on the roads of Mumbai during rains.  Both are so omnipresent that you can’t miss them for theworld.  Their omnipresence makes policemen less frightening to city-dwelling children.

For familiarity blunts fear. But it is otherwise in villages where policemen are seen once in a blue moon. Rarity sharpens fear.  No wonder for mothers in villages, the word ‘police’ comes very handy to scare their kids if they refuse to eat or remain defiant.

Some of us think all policemen are corrupt, and they can be influenced with an offer of bribe.

We assume – often wrongly -- that a traffic cop looks the other way if he realises that the one who commits an offence isn’t a stranger to traffic violations, but an obsessive offender who always takes care of the cop.

When we commit a traffic offence we try to get away with a bribe. So, if caught by the cop for not keeping on the right side of traffic rules, a motorist often mulls greasing the palm of the law. Impulsively he reaches for money when his driving licence is what the cop demands to see. We conveniently forget that there are upright men in the police fraternity too, as there are honest people in every walk of life.

Policemen often find themselves playing into the hands of politicians, and it won’t be off the mark to say that the law-keepers are fair game for the law-makers. In their eagerness to minister to politicians, cops have unwittingly got a tarnished image for themselves. In order to be in the good books of politicians, a policeman may not hang back to do things which, he would otherwise scruple to perform.  This earns rozzers a bad name.

In a just, virtuous society policemen would be an anachronism because theywould be out of harmony with it.  But such a society is nothing but utopian.

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