I have only ever heard two police officers speak in public, and curiously, both were women. The first was Kiran Bedi, whom I have heard several times, beginning when I was in school. She speaks (and acts) from the gut. She was the country’s first woman IPS officer, but today by no means the only one.
The second was yesterday, and the speaker (the second in the programme) was Chennai’s police commissioner Letika Saran. She provided an interesting contrast to Bedi: though she spoke without notes, her words were precise, carefully weighed and measured. The topic was child sex abuse by travellers. It seemed like she wanted to make a difference, she knew the police haven’t done the greatest job, but she didn’t want to come out and say that (or even blame political interference).
That apart, two things impressed me about her. First, she was an hour late — and apologised as soon as she got the podium. She made a self-deprecatory joke about it, but only after making a straight apology. Second, she used the silent mode on her mobile phone.
Trivial, I know, but both of these suggest a sensitivity and courtesy to others that is generally lacking in all our public officials, and especially our police. It sometimes seems to me that I’m the only one in the room who’s getting annoyed by phones ringing during public meetings or performances, or by VIPs delaying programmes by showing up late and unapologetic. At any rate, I’m pretty sure she didn’t apologise for tardiness or silence her phone because someone had previously complained to her.
I wonder how we can impress these niceties on our other public figures, or indeed on our public.