POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


FRIENDS OF POLICE MOVEMENT: A CONCEPT FOR EMPOWERMENT AND AN EXPERIMENT IN COMMUNITY POLICING

Philip V. Prateep

A movement in community policing called "Friends of Police Movement" was started in 1993 in Ramnad District of Tamilnadu. The movement has been well received not only among FOPs but also in the wider public and voluntary associations. Within a few months of its inception, nearly a 1000 members of the public from all walks of life volunteered to become FOPs in Ramnad district.

The essence of this movement is to foster and crystallise the hither-to untapped sentiments of goodwill for the police that exists among the general public. It is expected that the movement will go a long way to transform the police image, open up channels of communication and provide a reservoir of goodwill, feedback, intelligence and manpower.

The Movement aims to bring police and public close. Through this movement there will be free flow of information between the police and the public. It can be very helpful in creating channels for receiving the right information at the right time. It can also help police in correcting its negative image and projecting the right kind of image of police in the minds of the public. The public will come to know of the good work being done by police and help it. On the other hand, police will get the information of public sentiments on various issues.

By becoming a member of "Friends of Police" one feels a sense of belongingness and responsibility. Such feeling prevents one from doing certain acts himself and convincing others of the futility of such acts. It helps to promote crime awareness among the people and enable prevention of crimes. It also promote a sense of civic responsibilities and duties of the public a means of educating the general public. It can impart fairness, transparency and impartiality in the working of police. It can help police in restoring lost faith of public in police.

This is a useful holistic and pro-active concept and a tool to transform the police image, strengthen the force and create attitudinal changes both within the force and among the public. It is an experiment worth trying in every nation and every district. It is a formula and method of sharing police power and responsibility with the public in an increasingly complex and dangerous world.

The FOP movement to-day constitutes the thrust towards humanisation and socialisation of the police force. It is expected that the movement will spread to all other states of the country within a year's time. Thereafter, it is expected to spread to other nations of the world, wherever the police is a maligned and hated force.

A) THE RATIONALE

All over the globe, the police are the white blood corpuscles of the body politic. The police as a mechanism of social control and a subsystem in the body politic constitutes the internal defense of society to detect, fight and control the enemies, visible and invisible, of the public and society at large. All over the globe, the latter are becoming more numerous, more dangerous, more insidious and more difficult to detect, apprehend or punish. They are highly mobile and not confined to state, or national boundaries. The ever increasing crime and violence, international terrorism, narcotics smuggling assassination of national leaders, bombing of crowd centers in different states are part of the growing challenges to the police force, worldwide.

Unfortunately, despite these tremendous challenges, the Police to-day in virtually every nation and state are isolated from friends and foes alike. The police force in practically every nation/state suffers a problem of not just a "no image" or 'low image" situation but a highly negative image among the public at large, in the minds of the leaders,in the media as well as in their own ranks. The general image of the police, a legacy of earlier times is that it is a blunt-edged instrument to perpetuate and perform the will and whims of the powers-that-be. Complaints of police torture and custodial violence have further accentuated the negative image. A general atmosphere of lack of mutual trust, respect and confidence between the law using public and law enforcing police prevails. This sometimes surfaces and erupts into open hostility between different sections of the public and police. At the best and worst of times, this gulf between the police and the public hampers and hinders the functioning of the police in facing the growing challenges.

The police, also fails to distinguish between the vast majority of law abiding people and the comparatively smaller number of law breakers who have to be dealt with an iron hand. The irony is that though the police exists for the safe of the public, it works in a vacuum of a lack of goodwill, lack of information and feedback and a general lack of co-operation.

The Rodney King episode of police brutality and public retaliation in the USA goes to show that the phenomenon of "Police isolation" and "Public antagonism" is global. Hence there is an urgent need the world over for aggressive "social marketing" of the police.

The man donning the khaki uniform is perceived as a corrupt, brutal person given to frequent use of violence and torture. People are ready to believe the worst when a policeman is involved in any misadventure. Every lapse is attributed to "corruption". On the other hand, good work done by the police is rarely noticed and still rarely appreciated. The FOP movement can to a large extent correct this image of the policeman among the public, and the jaundiced eye with which the people view the police.

Prejudice is born out of ignorance and to a large extent the police by keeping the public at an arms length - are responsible for the way in which people are made aware of the ground realities of police work, they will be more sympathetic and the tendency to judge harshly will be reduced. The very horrific FOP will tend to implant certain psychological positive attitudes towards the police.

B) THE SOLUTION

Such an all pervasive, overpowering negative image of the police force can be negated and made positive only by initiating a movement in community policing. The movement initiated by me in Ramnad district of Tamil Nadu is called "Friends Of Police" movement. The essence of this movement is to foster and crystallize the hither-to untapped sentiments of goodwill for the police that exists among the general public. The movement has been well received not only among FOPs but also in the wider public and voluntary associations. Within a few months of its inception, nearly a 1000 members of the public from all walks of life volunteered to become FOPs in Ramnad district. Following the Chief Minister's announcement recently after a state level conference extending the FOP movement to the entire Tamil Nadu it has received further fillip. It is expected that the movement will go a long way to transform the police image, open up channels of communication and provide a reservoir of goodwill, feedback, intelligence and manpower.

All the functions of police are very closely related to the public. Even the existence of police is for the public, to protect their rights, to provide them secure and peaceful lives. Thus, the need of mutual trust and support between the police and public cannot be overemphasised. Public should feel free to approach police whenever its help is required and police should be always ready to help public. But such an atmosphere does not exist as police is considered as an instrument in the hands of power for the maintenance of status-quo. People do not approach police sometimes due to fear and otherwise due to lack of faith in it. There is a need to bring a change in the existing system. The required change is possible through community policing where public will be closely associated with police in its various functions.

"Friends of Police Movement" started in Ramnad District is a movement to bring police and public close. Through this movement there will be free flow of information between the police and the public. It will help in projecting the right kind of image of police. The public will come to know of the good work being done by police and help it. On the other hand, police will get the feel of public sentiments on various issues.

By becoming a member of "Friends of Police" one feels a sense of belongingness and responsibility. Such feeling prevents one from doing certain acts himself and convincing others of the futility of such acts. Sometimes the arguments of the man in uniform may not be able to convince the general public because of the existing perception of mind. But the same thing from a fellow being can have drastic effects. Through 'FOPs' the Police is creating ambassadors of goodwill for itself within the ranks of public.

For such a movement to be successful there are certain pre-requisites. The supervisory officers should show a keen interest. A continuous effort is necessary. Just enrollment as 'members of FOP' would not serve the purpose of the movement. Public has to be really involved so that it feels a part of the system. For Friends of Police Movement to be successful it is necessary that the public begin to perceive police as Friends of public.

C) OBJECTIVES OF THE FOP MOVEMENT

  1. To separate the friends from the foes of the police or "the chaff from the grain".
  2. To enable members of the public without regard to caste, creed or status, to establish rapport with police force. It is a method of people empowerment.
  3. To promote crime awareness among the people and enable prevention of crimes.
  4. To promote a sense of civic responsibilities and duties of the public a means of educating the general public. To learn as well as to teach human values.
  5. To act as a force multiplier by involving the FOPs in community policing. With the existing low police-public ratio, COPs along with FOPs can deter and prevent crimes.
  6. To evolve a mechanism to get feedback.
  7. To channelise local resources at short notice to meet any eventuality.
  8. To make available a potential pool of manpower resources with positive attitudes to the police to meet the requirement of police.
  9. To increase transparency and openness in the police.
  10. FOP can make steps towards policing with consent instead of the present image of policing with contempt.
  11. To educate the members of the public about their role and responsibility in policing.
  12. To enable police to prevent commission of criminal offences.

D) QUALIFICATIONS TO BECOME A FOP

  1. Every FOP shall be citizen and a resident in the district in which he applies for "Friendship" of police.
  2. He/She shall not be involved in any civil or criminal case- this is to ensure that the prospective FOP has no axe to grind with the police.
  3. No educational qualification or employment is prescribed but he/she shall be preferably literate to enable written communications.
  4. Age : minimum age of 18, maximum of 70.

In short, any member of the public who is not involved in any civil or criminal case can become a "FOP". He/She only has to send a letter to the Superintendent of Police giving his name, age, address and pledging his friendship. The appeal to the public to apply is made through the local press. Invariably hundreds of letters will pour in the ensuing weeks. The chief of police after verifying the antecedent of the applicants through the special Branch and the local police stations will admit them as FOPs.

E) A SENSE OF IDENTITY

After verification, the FOPs are issued identity cards or arm bands prominently marked FOP.

An important caveat is that no FOP shall misuse their new identity. Involvement in a criminal case will lead to automatic disqualification as FOP. This in itself acts as a check on the number of persons joining the ranks of antisocial and criminal elements. Becoming a FOP gives a sense of identity and identification with the police. It helps to sublimate and realise the "inner policemen" in every individual that draws him to the police.

F) METHOD OF ENROLMENT OF FOPS

Through the local media, the district chief of police should appeal to the members of the public, not involved in a civil or criminal case to join as FOP. The member of the public willing to become a FOP will state in his/her application form his/her name, age, occupation, the capacity in which he wishes to assist the police (Crime prevention, anti-vice campaign, victim assistance, information, night beat, patrolling, traffic assistance ).

G) TARGET AND TECHNIQUE OF ENROLLMENT

The target must be to enroll at least 10% of the total population in the area as FOPs. But each FOP must join voluntarily. If every group of 50 FOPs introduce the next 50 and so on, eventually a few thousands will be enrolled in every police district leading to network of FOPs all over the nation and the world.

H) BENEFITS OF THE FOP MOVEMENT : A SUCCESS STORY

Judging from the success in Tamil Nadu state of India the FOP movement augurs well for the image of the police. It provides an opportunity for the average citizen to contribute his mite in whatever way possible. It has transformed the image of the police in the district. So much so constables in Ramnad district report that villagers now approach them without fear and indeed with some degree of regard. Some FOPs have given useful information leading to detection of crimes. FOPs have also accompanied cops on night patrol and beat duty. FOPs also give useful information in the functioning of individual police officers and to put it in the words of a FOP, "It acts as a bridge between the police and the public."

RELEVANCE IN A PLURALISTIC SOCIETY

In the communal situation the FOPs can play a very useful role. During the highly tense communal situation preceding a religious procession in a particular problematic area of Ramnad district, FOPs belonging to the minority community gave useful suggestions and information to facilitate a peaceful bandobust.In an attempt to murder case, the evidence of a FOP helped to establish identity of the accused.

Though FOPs are not to be equated with being police informers they exchange useful information which they come across in their day to day life. Some fishermen who are FOPs regularly give information leading to seizure of explosives used in fishing on the Ramnad Coast. FOPs in coastal villages in Ramnad district p73 are organized into shore care committees to secure and sanitise the coast.

FOPs in various police station limits in Ramnad district are enthusiastic in reporting about prohibition offenses, rowdyism, communalism and other anti-social activities. Some of the constables report that the offenders in the remote villages of their jurisdiction feel as if a police officer is ever watching them on account of the presence of FOPs. FOPs also act as a check on the abuse of power by police officers as they can easily approach senior officers.

I) AN APPRAISAL

The FOP movement lends a psychological approach to policing. It has created attitudinal changes both within the force and among the public. It has truly created ripples of change in the sea of hostility that now seems to prevail between police and the public. The public are no more without friends in uniform and the police are no more without friends in the public.

This is a useful holistic and pro-active concept and a tool to transform the police image, strengthen the force and create attitudinal changes both within the force and among the public. It is an experiment worth trying in every nation and every district. It is a formula and method of sharing police power and responsibility with the public in an increasingly complex and dangerous world.

The FOP movement to-day constitutes the thrust towards humanisation and socialisation of the police force. It is expected that the movement will spread to all other states of the country within a year's time. Thereafter, it is expected to spread to other nations of the world, wherever the police is a maligned and hated force.

WAYS AND MEANS TO START, DEVELOP AND SUSTAIN THE FOP MOVEMENT

  1. Invitation to join as FOPs to be given by the chief of police of the district through the media - print media as well as electronic media (cable TV, cinema slides etc.)
  2. Members of the public will individually, not as a group, apply to join as FOPs.
  3. Any member of the public who is not involved in a civil or criminal case can join as FOP.
  4. District Chief, the SP or commissioner will vet the applications through the special Branch and through the local police station. This is to ensure the purity of the movement and to prevent any undesirable persons from joining as FOP.
  5. The persons admitted as FOPs after such checking can be issued arm badges made of white cloth with FOP prominently written across in red colour.
  6. The police officers concerned should identify and utilise the services of the more committed and active FOPs and use them to spearhead the movement in their areas and in various activities. Neutral members of other voluntary organisations and NGOs can be brought under the umbrella of FOPs.
  7. THE APPLICATION FORMAT IS AS FOLLOWS :

    (may be translated into Tamil or any other language.)

    
     I wish to join as FOP. 
    
    
    
     I am aware of the objectives of the FOP movement.   
    
    
    
     The reason I wish to join as FOP is ...................... 
    
    
    
     I intend to serve the public and assist the police in the  following   
    
     activities.  (Tick  what  you  choose  -  any   three  activities 
    
     alone to be chosen by each FOP). 
    
     

    (1) Crime Prevention. [ ] (2) Crime Awareness Campaign. [ ] (3) Traffic Assistance. [ ] (4) Traffic Awareness. [ ] (5) Night Rounds in my locality. [ ] (6) Prohibition information. [ ] (7) Human Rights Awareness Campaign. [ ] (8) Rights of Women Awareness Campaign. [ ] (9) Anti-Narcotics Campaign. [ ] (10) Anti-Immorality Campaign including AIDS-Awareness Program. [ ] (11) Matrimonial Disputes Intervention and Counselling. [ ] (12) Victim Assistance Program. [ ] (13) Police-Public Sports Program. [ ] (14) Prisoner's Rehabilitation and Prohibition - Offenders Rehabilitation. [ ] (15) Campaign for Rights of Deprived and Weaker Sections of Society. [ ] (16) Environmental Protection Program. [ ] (17) Campaign to foster and promote communal harmony [ ] (18) Campaign to foster and promote friendship with students by enrolling them as students FOPs. [ ] (19) Any other Program or Activity. [ ]

    I certify that I am not involved as a defendant or plaintiff in any civil case.

    I certify that I am not concerned as an accused in any criminal case.

    I herewith declare that I will not misuse my status and privileges as a FOP.

    I will strive to the best of my ability to serve the nation & society and assist the police in every manner possible.

    Countersigned by police officer. Signature of FOP.

    (SI and above ranks)

  8. Initially 100 to 200 may join as FOPs in each district/unit. This first batch of FOPs can introduce a like minded 100 to 200 individuals as FOPs. The first and second batch can introduce another 100 to 200 FOPs and the process of multiplication of FOPs should go on so as to cover at least 10% of the total population in the district or area.
  9. Of course any literate person who has steered free of any criminal charges is eligible to be an FOP but the chief of police can also concentrate on certain target groups who would be able to contribute more to the movement - school and college students ("catch them young"), housewives, retired personnel and professionals like doctors, lawyers, press etc. It would be useful if a student FOP wing is created in schools and colleges. In the USA where juvenile crime is on the increase, student FOPs p73 can give information regarding arms, drugs and other illegal activities involving students. Some kind of skills can be im parted to the FOPs depending on the activities in which they want to assist the police or even in order to keep the students out of mischief they can be taught unarmed combat, self-defence, etc. The office bearers of certain Non Governmental Organisations and voluntary service associations like Rotary, Lions can be co-opted ex-officio as honorary FOPs.
  10. THE ORGANIZATION: The FOPs are to be organized according to the area of their residence, about 500 households and the FOPs from these 500 households can be organized as a FOP Neighbourhood. A FOP co-ordinator is to be nominated for every 500 households. He must not be a political person. He will lead and coordinate the activities. Identity cards can be issued to only FOP co- ordinators.
  11. The FOPs should meet regularly or at least once a month with the jurisdiction police officer to highlight local problems and evolve solutions.
  12. A FOP involving in any antisocial activity or acting with vested interest will be liable to disqualification and severe action.

ROLE OF FOPS

All ranks in the police should act and interact with FOPs. FOPs can pass on useful information, can encourage police personnel, give useful suggestions to solve local problems, accompany policemen on night beats or move in groups wearing FOP badges in the area of their residence so as to cover up to 500 houses. Each FOP who has ticked the activity 'Night Rounds' is expected to spend at least six hours in a month in such an activity. FOPs who have chosen the option traffic assistance should be given training in traffic signs and regulations and will be expected to spend at least three hours in a month in traffic assistance.

COPs AND FOPs - A SYNERGISTIC MODEL

Gone are the days when police used to enjoy an unquestionable reign of terror and brute force. The times have changed. People are become aware of their rights. Institutions have been set up all over the world for protection of human rights. Human rights issue has become a major factor in determining the course of international relations. In India, the National Human Rights Commission has been set up to monitor and check the human rights violations. Therefore there is a need for rethinking in the working of the police organisation. In today's information age, information is power. If we have meaningful information, we can achieve our targets effectively and with minimum use of force. Here meaningful information means information which is relevant to our work. In earlier days, information was collected through covert sources. But nowadays it is difficult to collect all the relevant information through covert sources, because the present manpower is not sufficient for doing this job as it is already overburdened and overworked. In this context, Friends of Police movement can be very helpful in creating channels for receiving the right information at the right time. It can also p73 help police in correcting its negative image in the minds of the public. It can impart fairness, transparency and impartiality in the working of police.

It can help police in restoring lost faith of public in police. Police must be careful while vetting Friends of Police. Police must check their past record, credentials and antecedents before accepting them as FOP, because one wrong deed by a black sheep can negate the good work done. People are ready to share information with police provided police assure them protection. Till now a common man fears having any relationship with a policeman or with police in any form. The reason may be a fear psychosis regarding the police or the police culture of looking at every person with suspicion or abrasive behaviour of policemen with public. The maxim for the police in today's world will read "COPS ALONE CAN'T DO THE JOB; COPS ALONG WITH FOPs CAN DO IT." (COP = COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICE; FOP = FRIENDS OF POLICE). Community Oriented Policemen assisted by FOPs will constitute a humanistic, ethical and people-oriented model as opposed to the current isolationist, amoral, reactionary, status quoist paramilitary model that is in force in most parts of the world.

PHILOSOPHICAL, ETHICAL, SOCIOLOGICAL, AND PSYCHOLOGICAL ROOTS

The FOP approach is a formula and a strategy of sharing power and corresponding responsibility with the people. There is an "inner policeman" in every individual with a conception of what constitutes right and wrong, just and unjust, good and bad. The popularity of the policeman in fiction, be it on the screen or in fine print contrast sharply with the image of the flesh and blood counterparts in real life. This hiatus is due to the failure to develop the inner policeman. The FOP approach is a way to develop and sublimate the "inner policeman". At the same time, the honorific FOP meets the self-esteem needs of the average individual as association with the police in this manner lends glamour and status to the average citizen who evinces some interest in public affairs.

The FRIENDS OF POLICE movement will tend to end the social isolation imposed on the police ,individually and as an organisation, by the traditional, reactive and negative model of policing. To illustrate, in India when a police jeep is sighted in a village a child will raise his hand in a reflexive salute with a broad grin of recognition. As the child grows older and gets, so to say socialised the reaction would vary between a stony stare or a catcall as the vehicle gets beyond reach.

IMPACT ANALYSIS OF FRIENDS OF POLICE MOVEMENT

A survey was undertaken in May 1996 covering all the districts and commissionerates in the state of Tamil Nadu. The objective of the survey was to discover the impact of the FOP movement from the point of few of those who joined as FOPs as well as station house officers of 222 police stations. Separate questionnaires were administered to FOPs and sub-inspectors in charge of police stations. Their responses revealed their perceptions and attitudes as well as their views on the utility of the FOP concept and movement.

An analysis of the data collected was quite revealing. 167 FOPs in all parts of the State were interviewed. Nearly 40% of the FOPs were in the age group 18 to 25 years while 30% were in the age group 25 to 30 years. 87% of FOPs enrolled are in the active age group of 18 to 40 years. The younger elements of the population are more involved as FOPs. Just over 17% of the FOPs interviewed were students while 33% were either engaged in business or agriculture. The single largest group were engaged in business (23%). 13% of the FOPs were unemployed people. While 16% were self employed. These statistics show that beyond earn ing a livelihood, people want an opportunity to serve society.

With regard to educational qulification, 22% had studied upto 10th std, 18% had completed 10th std, 22% had completed intermediate, while the single largest group were Graduates who consituted 33%. Post Graduates accounted for less than 3% of the volunteers. The survey shows that more literates, and educated persons are attracted enough to enrol as FOPs.

ROLE OF FOPS

62% of the respondents stated they had helped at some time or other in the investigation of crime while an overwhelming 83% stated they had helped in the maintenance of law and order.

IMPACT OF FOPS

62% of respondents stated that they could now understand and appreciate the difficulties in policing -- acting as a FOP tends to create a sense of sympathy and empathy in the members of the public. An overwhelming 88% of respondents felt they had acquired the sense of pride of policing. 83% of the FOPs stated that it had improved their knowledge of legal duties and obligations. 75% of FOPs propogated the concept of FOP in their circle. FOPs tend to act as leaders within their environment.

MISUSE

91% of FOPs stated they had not been misused by police for their personal ends while 84% stated that in their knowledge no FOP had misused his/her status. Misuse of FOPs and misuse of status by FOPs is at a minimal level.

PERIODICITY OF MEETINGS WITH SHO

36% of FOPs covered stated they had met the SHO on a monthly basis. 32% of respondents stated they had met the SHO on a weekly basis, while 19% and 12% of respondents met the SHO on a fortnightly and quaterly basis respectively. Regular meetings with FOPs keeps them going while giving the SHO a feel of the pulse and needs of the community.

ROLE OF PRESS

68% of the respondents felt that the local press did not publish the good work done by the FOPs while 27% felt that the press did publish the good work done by FOPs. Recognition by the press will go a long way to galvanising FOPs into action.

COOPERATION FROM THE POLICE

91% of the respondents did not have any procedural difficul ties in joining as a FOP. 90% of the respondent FOPs stated that they got the cooperation of the constabulary in policing. 94% felt that the sub-inspector effectively coordinated their work as FOPs. 95% f FOPs stated they had never got any rough treatment as FOP from any police officer/policemen. 87% of FOPs felt that the interaction with police officers was satifactory. With regard to involvement of superior officers nearly 50% of FOPs had met a superior officer above SHO while 50% had not met a superior p73 officer.

MOTIVATION FOR JOINING AS FOP

31% of respondents stated they wished to serve the public and the police force. 20% stated they enrolled as FOPs to promote a better police public relationship. 19% stated they joined to secure social status as a FOP. 4% stated they joined due to peer pressure. 6% stated they joined since they were unemployed. Another 6% stated they joined out of a sense of adventure. The service motivation is the predominent motive for individuals to enrol as FOPs.

DUTIES UNDERTAKEN

18% of respondents stated they had gone on beats and night patrols. 11% stated they had assisted in traffic. 10% stated they had helped in crime prevention. Another 10% claimed they had helped in intelligence work. Nearly 9% stated they had been involved in bandobust work while another 9% stated they were involved in law and order maintenance. 3.5% of respondents stated they were involved in prohibition work.

These statistics reveal that FOPs played an active role in assisting the police in all spheres and areas of policing.

NEED FOR INCENTIVES

12% of FOP respondents stated that some allowance may be given as an incentive. 8% felt that a traveling pass may be given. 1% of respondents asked for some form of uniform and identity card. 76% of respondents did not ask for any extra incentive. The opportunity for community service and social recognition serve as the primary incentive.

The findings of the survey conducted through questionnaires administered to station house officers of 222 police stations (nearly one-third of total number of police stations in the state), corroborates the perceptions of FOPs. Both surveys establish that the balance sheet of the FOP movement is on the plus side. The surveys reveal that more encouragement needs to be given to the movement from the level of the circle inspector upwards. Sub-division officers and District SPs have a crucial role in encouraging SHOs and FOPs to act as partners and prime movers of community policing. This will doubtless ensure a better quality of life, a better quality of policing, better police-public relations, and a better image for the police.

Articles regarding the FOP movement by the author has been published in following journals:

  1. The Police Journal, published in England Vol. LXIX number 2, April-June 1996, pp 126-130.
  2. Accepted for publication in the Law and Order Management Magazine, USA.
  3. Criminal Justice Europe Vol.5, Number 6, pps 11-13, November-December 1995
  4. Texas Police Journal - Vol.43, November 1995, pps 11-15.
  5. Also published in Indian Police Journal, NPA Journal, Indian Journal of Criminology, Suraksha, Karnataka Police Academy Newsletter.


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