Lightweight bulletproof vests sought for traffic police

Updated October 12, 2015

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Wearing bulletproof vest, a traffic sergeant stands alert with a Kalashnikov rifle as his colleagues perform routine work on a busy road.—White Star
Wearing bulletproof vest, a traffic sergeant stands alert with a Kalashnikov rifle as his colleagues perform routine work on a busy road.—White Star

KARACHI: Traffic police authorities have sought bulletproof vests with lighter weight for traffic-handling personnel across the city as they believe it is not easy to perform such duties with the existing 9kg jackets. This development is in reaction to the immense threat of armed attacks that have resulted in the deaths of several traffic police personnel, it emerged on Sunday.

Sources privy to the recent communication between the traffic police and the Sindh police hierarchy said a proposal had been forwarded to the relevant authorities for the import of around 3,000 bulletproof vests made of synthetic material which were much lighter in weight for traffic police personnel.

“The bulletproof vests currently used by our policemen carry metal plates on both sides of the jacket,” said an official. “The average weight of such jackets ranges between 8kg. With such a weight it’s not an easy job to stand under the open sky for six to eight hours to control traffic. That’s why a proposal was forwarded to the Sindh IG which is being pursued further,” he added.

He said the bulletproof vests made of synthetic material were much lighter and being used in different parts of the country as well. Following the request from police authorities, according to the sources, arrangements were being made to import bulletproof vests with synthetic material through due process.

The recent wave of deadly attacks against traffic policemen has claimed the lives of nearly a dozen personnel within a few weeks. Unarmed and without any regular policing training, traffic constables were later given automated rifles, pistols and bulletproof vests by the Sindh police for self-defence.

However, the move has not shown to be much effective as attackers are still finding traffic policemen a soft target since they are busy in traffic management at crowded intersections amid hundreds of vehicles.

Later, police authorities sought the assistance of paramilitary Rangers to provide security to traffic police personnel in the metropolis following consistent attacks. However, the Rangers, according to officials, have not been able to provide security cover to traffic personnel at all major intersections.

“The Rangers soldiers currently are deputed only at sensitive intersections,” said another official.

“There are still a number of busy intersections where the traffic officials are without security cover. At such points the traffic officials are taking care of security on their own with a couple of armed colleagues.”

Though the recent incident has sent ripples among the Karachi police authorities, traffic policemen have also been randomly targeted in the past; some 49 traffic policemen have been targeted from 1995 to 2015.

Around 1,200 traffic policemen work in one shift with an overall force of 3,100 across the city.

“Out of 3,100 traffic police officials, 600 have been armed with automated rifles and pistols,” said the official.

“These 600 armed personnel perform duties along with their 2,500 colleagues at traffic intersections providing them security cover. Apart from Rangers and armed traffic policemen, some 300 police commandos have also been deputed in different areas for the security of traffic officials.”

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2015

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