The long arm of the law will now be accessorized with a designer tote. Delhi Police have launched a range of clothing, handbags, backpacks, duffel bags, purses, wallets, belts, caps, cufflinks, key rings and other accessories which they hope will will please the aam janta. Taking inspiration from the police uniform for its khaki color scheme with red and blue accents, the line was created “after extensive research, keeping in mind global trends, the duties and responsibilities of the police and public expectations,” says designer Ritu Beri who collaborated on the project. The purpose of the project, according to a police spokesperson: “A range of branded products creates a strong bond with its consumers, arousing the admiration and aspiration of young people.”
Whether the cops matched or missed the pulse of today’s youth will be revealed by the sales numbers, but the attempt to reach out is commendable. For too long, the khaki uniform has formed a seemingly impassable barrier between the wearer and others. It survived as an instrument of state, run on behalf of the British crown before, and the people of India now – inspiring, many would say, the same fear. Police departments elsewhere in India have also identified this lingering fear and distance as a chasm that needs to be bridged. They have sought to do this in a variety of ways – from witty tweets from the Mumbai Police on matters of public interest to dance videos from the Kerala Police who attempted to raise awareness of handwashing and social distancing during the public health emergency.
Yet, while it woos Delhi’s youth, cops in the capital would do well to remember, as police forces around the world do, that such measures are no substitute for reform. Compassion, accessibility, fairness and empathy would be far more effective in connecting with the public than the hippest tote bag.