Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 6 Issue 13| April 6, 2007 |

   Cover Story
   Straight Talk
   Special Feature
   Law and Order
   Dhaka Diary
   Book Review
   New Flicks

   SWM Home

Law and Order

People-friendly Police Stations?

Kajalie Shehreen Islam

Going to the police station used to be a nightmare and not only for the guilty. Even for plaintiffs filing cases, or something as simple as filing a General Diary (GD), there was no end to the harassment from frauds outside the station waiting to swindle the already-aggrieved, to the busy, stressed-out and, ultimately, unhelpful officers inside. But, along with other recent welcome changes in different sectors, reform is taking place in the police service as well and in an area where the public can directly feel the difference.

“Before there used to be a lot of hassle at the station,” says Nazmul Hasan, who has come to Shahbagh Police Station to report the loss of some important documents. “Now everything goes smoothly. They even help with writing up the complaint, whereas before we had to do it on our own. I’m very satisfied with the new service.”

The credit goes to the officers of the recently-launched Service Delivery cell. After a pilot project in nine stations, the cell has been opened at all Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) stations from March 1 of this year.

The main aim of the initiative, says Shahbagh Police Station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Helaluddin, is to provide hassle-free service to the public. “Before,” says the OC, “there used to be a whole group of touts outside the stations who would act as go-betweens, promising people quick and efficient service in exchange for a fee. But in the criminal justice system, you’re not supposed to pay to report to the police. You just have to let them know your problem and it is their duty to give you protection. People don’t know this and would needlessly take the help of fraud-agents. We couldn’t really stop them because the complainants would bring them along saying they were acquaintances or something of the sort.”

Helaluddin, OC, Shahbagh Police Station

Now, the Service Delivery cell is right by the gate of the station. There are no crowds outside, and people walk in leisurely on their own and file their complaints. One man has come to report an accident from the day before; another, to file a GD for his lost papers.

“We listen to people’s complaints and then tell them what to do about it,” says Duty Officer of Shahbagh Police Station, Faruq, “whether they should file a case or a GD and so on.”

“Before,” says Service Delivery Officer Sub-Inspector (SI) Surujuzzaman, “they would have to go to lawyers for this but now we provide the preliminary legal advice. It’s a lot simpler and we save a lot of time. The key word is service,” he emphasises.

The task of the Service Delivery Officers is clearly outlined and framed on their desks: to receive complainants, to behave very well with them, to listen patiently to their problems, to give them legal advice and to get them in touch with the relevant higher authorities where necessary.

“The response has been very good,” says OC Helaluddin. “Many people have started coming in, even with cases from as far back as the year 2000, because they know that they will get good service.” And, says Helaluddin, there are hardly any “reference calls” from high-ups anymore, requesting officers to handle so-and-so’s case quickly, efficiently, etc. What needs to be done gets done because the system itself has become simple and effective. Like everything else, however, this new service comes with a few problems too. “Because things are easier now,” says Helaluddin, “it is also easier for people to file false GDs, for example, and use them later in court. This does not happen in criminal cases where a First Information Report (FIR) has to be filed, but it does sometimes in civil cases.”

Providing quick and efficient service, the new Service Delivery cell at Dhaka's police stations has been a hit with the public.

Considering the extra service being provided now, the stations are also understaffed. No new officers have been posted at the Service Delivery cell so it is the officers of the station who work there as well. Duty Officer Faruq says, “We’re under a lot of pressure, we only get a few hours off a day. We’re almost always on duty.”

“We currently have 10 SIs where we need some 16, so it’s a lot of work,” says SI Surujuzzaman.

OC Helaluddin agrees that the station is short of staff. What would make the service even better, he says, is the assignment of police officers who are university graduates at the Service Delivery cell. “Police come from a variety of backgrounds,” says Helaluddin. “The more educated you are, the better-equipped you are to deal with all kinds of people. We have everyone, from the university Vice-Chancellor (VC) to slum-dwellers coming to our station,” he says. “We need people who can interact and communicate well with both.”

Some infrastructural changes may also make the service more effective, believes Helaluddin. “My office is across the courtyard from the cell. It would be better if they were all close together, with glass partitions so that I can monitor my officers.”

The Service Delivery cell is soon going to be launched at the different districts. So far, it has been met with positive response in Dhaka. There are a lot more people coming in with their problems and, most importantly, having them resolved as simply and as quickly as possible. This new initiative to make life easier for the public is a commendable first and hopefully permanent step towards changing the image and improving the efficiency of a service that used to bring to mind only harassment and bribes.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2007