LAHORE: Front desks have been set up at select police stations across the province to improve complaint registration, public relations and record keeping. The facility is managed by civilians hired on contract basis. The desks are equipped with a computer each, an internet connection, air conditioning and a sitting area for complainants.
Speaking to The Express Tribune several complainants praised the facility for prompt filing of complaints in a cordial environment but said that there was still no guarantee that action would be taken on the complaints. Some said they still needed references from influential people to persuade the police to take action on their complaints.
Asif Bashir, a Township resident, said there had been no action on his complaint against a man who introduced himself as a district administration official and taken away his personal documents and some money. He said he had made six calls at the landline number of the police station in three days but got no update on his complaint. Eventually, he said, he had to use a ‘reference’ in the matter.
The Faisal Town sub inspector denied that action was taken on the complaints with someone’s intervention. He said it had taken the police sometime to process the application. The SI said they had tracked down the suspect who had returned the documents taken from the complainant. He said the suspect had taken away a small amount of money so they did not feel the need to make him return that to the complainant or to register an FIR in the matter. “Our paperwork will increase significantly if we start registering FIRs in such matters,” he said.
Faisal Town police station is one of the 10 in Lahore where front desks were set up as a pilot project in January last year at a cost of Rs1 million each. The project has since been replicated at select police stations in 12 other districts.
Several police officials including SHOs of some police station where front desks have been set up said the project was ill planned and unnecessary.
An SHO said the emphasis appeared to be on extravagant spending and cosmetic changes in the department. He said while some police stations had been equipped with front desks but no attention was being paid to basic facilities like clean drinking water, toilets, furniture and stationary supplies.
Another SHO said hiring civilians for public dealing at police stations was not wise. He said it had sent out a message to the police officials that they could not be trusted with the task.
A DSP said one could not expect a sustainable change in thana culture just by equipping police stations with a well furnished, decorated and air conditioned front desk facility. He said resources spent on setting up front desks would have been better spent if allocated for building capability of the operations and investigations wings.
An SSP said the sustainability of the project was questionable considering the officers had been recruited on short-term contracts without a service structure.
Some ASIs trained to serve as administrative officers before the inauguration of front desks said there was no need for the facility. They said they had been trained in public dealing and were to take care of the tasks now delegated to the front desk officers. They said the admin officers project had been wrapped up when front desks were set up.
ASI Muhammad Riaz said resources had been squandered by initiating two projects serving the same purposes. “The IGP should be asked why he approved two similar projects at the same time and why a successfully running project (of admin officers) was wrapped up,” he said.
ASI Mubashir Ahmad said that inconsistent policies were causing restlessness among lower cadre officials. He said he and his colleagues had successfully completed training in public dealing and were working hard to improve their profile. All of a sudden, they were told that they had been shifted to the investigations wing, he added.
Speaking to The Tribune, CCPO Amin Wains denied that the admin officers’ project had been wrapped up. He said they were still performing duties and were coordinating affairs between the SHOs and front desks. Some of them had been assigned investigation of cases as an additional task, he said.
He denied that there had been any waste of funds. He said the front desks project was still in the pipeline when trainings were arranged for admin officers. The city police had in some instances used the funds allocated for its routine operations to undertake the admin officers’ project, he said.
The CCPO said improving public relations was a priority but work on it had not been undertaken at the cost of other needs. He said various projects were underway currently including the construction of new police station buildings, renovation of existing infrastructure and provision of basic facilities. The CCPO said front desk officers were hired for public dealing. If police officials were removed from the field and appointed at the front desks for an extended period of time it was likely to compromise their policing skills.
On sustainability of the project, he said work was underway to develop a service structure for the front desk officers. He said once the service structure was approved it would be shared with the media, he said.