Saturday, August 25, 2007

The cops show why are tops

Permission to reproduce this article has to be obtained from The New Indian Expresss

At the ‘Suvarna Varsham’ exhibition, the Kerala Police display the latest equipment and a committed mind-set

By Shevlin Sebastian

"At a political meeting, a misunderstanding arose between the police and the crowd and things turned violent," says Jayadev Kumar, a police photographer from Kasaragod. When the mob saw that Kumar was taking a video, they pelted him with stones.

"See this scar going down my face," he says, pointing with his finger. "This was because of the stone throwing. My face was bloodied and I had to spend a month in hospital. The crowd wanted to destroy my video camera and they succeeded."

Not many people know that the Kerala Police has a Photographic Bureau. "Our job is to take photographs and video shots at the
scene of a crime," says Kumar. "This will help in the investigation and
will also be presented as evidence in court."

In Kochi, Kumar is manning the photography stall at the 'Suvarna Varsham' exhibition on Marine Drive, which is a celebration of 50 years of the Kerala Police.

In the stall, there are old cameras like the Hasselblad 120 and the latest Nikon and Pentax cameras. "We use a Nikon D200, which costs Rs 1.5 lakh each," says Kumar.

The next stall is the fingerprints bureau, which has a telling poster, ‘Faces can lie, fingerprints never’. And near that is the Hi-Tech Cyber crime cell.

At the entrance, there are a row of mannequins wearing the uniforms of the Kerala Police. It begins with a Travancore era policeman, with his red shirt which ends in a frilly hem just below the waist, and red trousers with golden bands and black shoes. Around 20 of the 29 uniforms are in khaki, the colour of law enforcement in the British Raj.

When asked how these uniforms were sourced, Police Commissioner Manoj Abraham says, “They belong to my personal collection. I have been collecting over the years. We took photographs of policemen of earlier times and got the uniforms stitched.”

In another stall, the equipment displayed is what is used during riots. For example, there are three types of lathis: wood, cane and polycarbon. "When we use a polycarbon lathi, there is less chance of breaking bones, but there is more pain," says C.C. Laiju, head constable, Armed Reserve Camp, Kochi. "However, we use all three nowadays."

Besides the lathis, there are a series of grenades. One of them is the Stinger grenade. "This consists of bolts and pellets," says Laiju. "When the grenade bursts, apart from shedding tears, you will receive small cuts all over the body. This will prevent you from becoming aggressive." Then there is a dye marker grenade. When this bursts, the dye powder falls on people and the culprits can be identified later.

On the right, there are sten guns, machine carbines, revolvers, and, of course, the most popular gun in the world, the AK-47. "The AK-47 has a magazine that holds around 30 bullets," says U.S. Babu, an Assistant Sub Inspector. "The big advantage this gun has over the others is that it has an automatic lever. When you press it, the magazine will fire by itself till all the bullets have been used."

When one lifts the AK-47, it seems lighter than the other guns, at 3.5
kgs. "It is a user-friendly gun," says Babu, with a smile.

In the telecommunications stall, you can see the ubiquitous walkie talkie that most traffic policemen seem to be carrying around these days. "The walkie talkies we use are either made by Motorola or Kenwood," says A. Sali, ASI, Police telecommunications Unit, Aluva. "It costs about Rs 30,000 and in Kochi, there are about 200 walkie talkies being used."

For internal secret communication, the Morse code is used. "When we transmit something, it is received by a repeater which re-transmits it," says Sali. "Unlike mobile phone companies, which need a tower every ten kilometres, we just have five towers in the entire state."

In the next stall, these towers are shown on an impressive wall diagram. The towers are located at Kasaragod, Wyanad, Palakkad, Idukki and Ponmudi. It is manned 24 hours a day and, because of security reasons, the towers are located deep in the forest or at a very high elevation.

At the Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) stall, there are underwater mine sweepers, electronic stethoscopes, and night vision goggles. "With the help of these goggles, we can see at a distance of 300m," says Saji Kumar, ASI, Special Branch, BDDS, Thiruvananthapuram. "This has been imported from Russia and costs about Rs 1 lakh. Each bomb squad has about five of them and every district has one."

In the Traffic Police, Kochi City stall, apart from breathanalysers for drunken driving and reflector jackets, the most interesting equipment is the oxygen parlour. You can inhale pure oxygen from it. "When a policeman works for six hours at a stretch at a busy traffic junction, because of pollution, he gets very tired," says Harris K. Farid. "To help alleviate this, he can get a dose of pure oxygen at the police station near the high court."

So what has been the reaction of the public? E.J. Shijoy, 24, says, "My view of the police is what I have seen in movies: the way they use their lathis and tackle criminals. But by meeting them face to face, I have got a far better understanding of how they work."

S.S. Shrijith, 25, a sales manager in a Kochi firm, says, "The exhibition might succeed in changing the people's negative attitude towards the police, to a certain extent. However, when we meet them outside, they might again behave rudely with us."

The policemen, however, are very happy. Says Sali, "We are trying to show that the police is not an enemy, but a friend of the people. And we are succeeding in this."

Adds R.L. Rajesh, of the Police Training College: "There has been a good response. The public is getting an idea of how we work." That could be true, because you get a far better impression of the Kerala Police after viewing the exhibition.

What has not been mentioned so far is the Navy’s formidable participation: you can see and touch air to surface missiles like the Sea Eagle and surface to surface missiles. There are numerous government departments taking part, the Kerala Builder's Forum has a few stalls, and, in total, there are 280 stalls.

The exhibition ends on August 26.

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