In Tultitlán, Mexico, where the police officers are considered some of the most corrupt in Latin America, children who are victims of domestic violence, susceptible to drug sales and bullying, are being helped by cops with big smiles and red noses.
Respect for law enforcement officers in recent years has plummeted in the wake of the rampant drug trade. So-called Police Clown Units, “Polipayasos” as they call themselves, have been trying to change that. Aiming to keep the next generation from becoming involved in crime, they visit schools, streets, and hospitals creating a dialogue with children and families about life, its temptations, and how to do the right thing.
In one community on the outskirts of Mexico City, for instance, 5-6 police officers volunteered for the brand new unit last month and began spreading a positive message to children while combatting bullying and violence in homes, schools and neighborhoods. Training in psychology and motivation makes them especially suited for the task.
Dressed in police uniforms but wearing clown make-up and radiant smiles, instead of guns they point balloons and fingers. On their travels around the district they are transforming the image of the “bad police officer”.
“We’re cops, interested in giving talks, workshops and courses in primary and secondary schools to prevent bullying, crime, domestic abuse, and prevent them from falling into drugs,” said one of the Polipayasos, a cop for 15 years who spoke in Spanish. “We believe playing with them will promote a culture of prevention and gain their confidence.”
This latest Polipayasos unit may have modeled its humor strategy on a duo of officers in Monterrey, 8 hours to the north. Going by their clown names, Blossom and Trumpets, these two policemen began a few years ago wearing colorful make-up and blue and green wigs, in their quest to keep young Mexican students on the right track.
Through comic plays and songs, the clowns teach that a wallet found on the street must be returned to its owner. Positive interactions like those mean the next time the kids see police officers they smile instead of run and hide.
The video below features Spanish language, but you can click the translation button [cc] and choose your language. (Video by Florence Leyret-Jeune)