WHEN Chief Insp. Wildemar Tiu returned to the Fuente Police Station after a six-week vacation, he was met with questions about the death of 11-year-old street child Chastity Mirabiles. Chastity was among the street children “rescued” by Tiu and his men on Palm Sunday in April. The next day, the child collapsed on a sidewalk not far from the Fuente circle.

Tiu denied having a hand in the death, insisting that Chastity was not among those they rounded up on Palm Sunday. He instead linked the child’s death to Chastity’s mother and the mother’s live-in partner.

Tiu later quit from his post as Fuente Police Station chief to give investigators looking into Chastity’s death a free hand. But before that, he was seen along Osmeña Blvd. clearing the area of mendicants, including children. No social worker was present during the operation, though.

Tiu apparently sent the message that despite the controversy over Chastity’s death, “rescuing” street children remains part of the police station’s routine acts. But his replacement, Chief Insp. David Señor, has another idea. The street kids will now be the responsibility of social workers and barangay officials.

That could be a better setup than what Tiu and his predecessors put in place at the Fuente Police Station. While the routine can be a preventive measure considering robbery incidents in the area allegedly perpetrated by some street children, directly handling those children is not really within the police officers’ competence.

This even if the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) responded to Chastity’s case by holding a seminar on the proper handling of children in conflict with the law. The fact remains that this is not the main task of policemen and that it can be better handled by those whose expertise includes dealing with street children.

Besides, with policemen handling this task, barangay officials whose jurisdiction includes areas frequented by mendicants and children are deprived of initiative.

That applies, too, to the Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS), which seems content watching from the sidelines the Fuente Police Station “rescuing” street children.