To create change, one has to enter it like a Trojan horse and create change from within. One can be idealistic but one also has to be pragmatic to implement the ideal within a given system.
Whoever thought policing was all about heading off arrests, brute force, sirens and strife, physical courage, and barked orders, here is a story that shuns one too many stereotypes. The story of a Senior Cop who has been a pioneer of reforms and catalysts of positive change to the community worldwide. The story of a Knight in Khakhi who miraculously escaped the jaws of death not once but twice.
Two cracks at the exam and gave into a tryst with destiny and God’s will, the young IPS officer started his journey 33 years ago. And this forward-thinking mayor is officer Dr. Prateep Philip I.P.S., the current DGP of Civil Supplies (CID). His vision even as a young Superintendent of Police was to humanize the police. In pursuit of his goal to bridge the gap between the police and public, Friends Of Police Movement was started in 1993 in Ramanathapuram (Ramnad) District, Tamilnadu when he was serving as the Superintendent of Police (SP). A few presentations and multiple success stories later, the FOP movement achieved world-wide recognition as an international blueprint for community policing – the tangible success being faith and support of the police by the public, open channels of communication, transparency, goodwill, and manpower. He has converted the cynicism and dubious perceptions of policing into a radical global movement – one of courage, innovation, and integrity. Recently, Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi also acknowledged the humane and sensitive act of Policing displayed by Friends Of Police.
The only piece of ‘uniform’ that this top cop likes to have on always is his thinking cap says Sanjay Pinto and one cannot agree more. He is the author of many books, his upcoming book is titled ‘Fillipisms’ – Fillipsms refers to his copyrighted motivational sayings and he has collated over 3000 of them, making it the largest number of aphorisms by a single author in history as well as the contemporary world. He is also the Founder of Eqthinking, a series of global online seminars to help people everywhere cope mentally and emotionally with the Covid pandemic and its aftermath. If you are stressed, bored, or lost in tough times in the wake of uncertainty – Prateep’s seminars are your beacon of hope!
The altruistic acts of Prateep have created a ripple effect that is here to stay. Taking on challenges with dexterity and finding solutions to problems that you thought never existed has been the hallmark of his career so far.
A conversation with Prateep left me with gratitude and a tremendous amount of thirst – thirst for inspiration and quest for educating myself into the ocean of the unknown. Here are some of the excerpts from the interview hoping all is not lost in transcription.
Chennai Insider: What would you say were the most defining moments in terms of challenges and how have you overcome them?
Dr.Prateep : Over my 33 years of service and counting, the one defining moment was when I was injured in the world’s first human bomb in which Shri Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister, was assassinated. I was badly injured and I survived with multiple injuries, fractures, burns. Another near-death of experience of drowning in the sea. These two incidents gave me confirmation that God had a certain destiny planned for me for which he had spared my life.
While I lay injured in Sriperambadur after the blast, a young man, with a torn shirt climbed into the van and cradled my bleeding face in his lap and gave me drops of water as I was crying out for water. I had lost a lot of blood in the half-hour that I lay very near the epicenter of the blast. I turned to him with real gratitude because he was there in my critical moment and I asked him in Tamil, “what is your name?” He replied, “Purushottaman” which means “best man”. That touched a chord in my life. He disappeared at the Primary Hospital soon after I was handed over to the doctors for emergency treatment. But that young boy –who though untrained, volunteered to help an injured senior police officer became the inspiration for the concept of Friends Of Police – FOP which I initiated as soon as I became the Superintendent of Police of my first district in Tamil Nadu.
Chennai Insider: Do you think policing and police officers are often under-celebrated?
Dr Prateep: FOP itself was created as I found that police were not just under-celebrated but also not supported. The Police-Public antagonism was a world-wide phenomenon. Though police exist for the sake of the public, since the police are always involved in the negative intervention to arrest, prosecute, and punish, there is always a floating sense of antipathy. That’s why FOP has universal relevance. It was necessary as a bridge to connect and enhance the interface between police and people.
Chennai Insider: How is the FOP helping in times of crisis like Covid-19?
Dr Prateep: FOP has been very active in helping the police enforce social distancing, stay at home, and also in reaching necessary relief to migrant workers, poor and homeless. In Chennai, FOP has been able to supply 1000+ food packets per day to police personnel and needy in all 4 zones of the Chennai city. We have also been able to provide bundles of 10 essential grocery items to 100s upon 100s of workers, wageless and the needy who are not covered by the PDS system and food supply to orphanages, home for destitute and mentally challenged, and others who are in dire need during this lockdown period. We have also supplied 1500 masks to police personnel and members of the public in different parts of the state. In every disaster, FOP has played a role whether it is Tsunami or floods, etc by mitigating disaster and helping people in crisis.
Chennai Insider: Your free-spirited “Filipisms” and writing is quite in contrast with your disciplined and tough lifestyle of an IPS officer. There is more to you than meets the eye?
Dr Prateep: Once when I was DIG in Tirnuvelveli Range, I took my 2 young daughters and family to Kanniyakumari. And on seeing the Thiruvalluvar statue there, it struck me that the tallest statue was not to a warrior, or a king, or a scholar but to a thinker like Thiruvalluvar. I told my daughters how important it is to think. I have always had a penchant to coin my own expressions and maxims. In the last 3650 days, I follow a ritual – that is to perform about an hour’s meditation every single day on scripture. Post the meditation, these thoughts and sayings would float from my subconscious through the course of the day. I would immediately share these expressions of my mind and spirit to motivate and inspire others. My first book of 3,333 Filipsms is just edited and laid out as a book – ready to go out as a publication soon after the pandemic abates.
Chennai Insider: Multiple accolades later, what still keeps you going? What motivates you and keeps you awake at night?
Dr Prateep: Peter Drucker, Father of Modern Management says, Innovate and perish. I have modified it as Innovate till we perish. What keeps me going is the spirit of creativity and spirit of innovation. At every post I have held, I have tried to innovate. When I was IG Social Justice, we created a platform across the state – of social justice tea parties to eliminate discrimination against weaker sections of the society particularly in rural areas. And nearly north of 1 million people attended the world’s largest and longest ongoing Tea party which was conducted in tea shops in 40,000 villages across Tamil Nadu. In my current job as DGP Civil Supplies, CID, we have created an Initiative called KYC – not know your customer but know your criminal. KYC helps to fast-track the top-notch smugglers and hoarders of PDS Commodities, to prosecute them and to detain them under the prevention of Black marketing act.
Chennai Insider: Being a pioneer of change, what would be your 5 cents of advice to someone who wants to initiate change within an institution?
Dr Prateep: The police is like a fortress. Similarly, many institutions worldwide are like impenetrable fortresses. To create change, one has to enter it like a Trojan horse and create change from within. One can be idealistic but one also has to be pragmatic to implement the ideal within a given system. Even with regard to FOP, I’ve made the focus as being supportive of the police. Automatically, this brings accountability, responsiveness, and transparency. There would have been resistance if the focus directly was transparency. There are also certain skills one has to develop to have it accepted at a high level. If we can get it across, sell it to the top person in the state or country then we can cut through a lot of tape and get the process shortened so that it is implemented within the course of one’s career. With regards to FOP, I started early, and that is why over the span of the last 27 years we have been able to institutionalize it.
And when the conversation ends, he slips into his police boots again, for work is worship and craftsmanship. Prateep’s stellar work demonstrates the future of policing ahead of times – Of the people not ‘off’ the people, for the people not ‘far off’ from the people.
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