LAHORE: The Punjab police department’s mega initiative to reform police stations through better qualified front desk officers (FDOs) with most of them information technology graduates faces an uncertain future.

Posted as police station assistants (PSAs) and senior station officer (SSOs) at more than 700 police stations across Punjab some six years ago, nearly 1500 male and female young front desk officers find themselves in a blind allay -- either quit their jobs or take to the streets to get their rights.

At the time of hiring, these officers were promised regular jobs under a service structure but this did not happen. Instead, the department refused to extend the contract of over 50 officers in 2018.

Frustrated, the officers decided to lodge a protest outside the Punjab Assembly on Monday (July 26) but stepped back after a strong warning from the senior command that they might face ‘criminal cases’ for being the part of a disciplined force.

Hired in 2015, young IT graduates working to reform police stations

Sources said all the district police officers in the province were told by the IGP to stop protest as he had already taken up the matter with the chief secretary for the regularization of their services. He asked the DPOs to lodge cases or fire the FDOs if they went ahead with their plan.“IGP Inam Ghani has taken notice of the protest call and the legitimate demands of the front desk employees to resolve them on a priority basis,” Punjab Police Information Officer (PPIO) DIG Sohail Sukhera told Dawn.

He said the IGP had acknowledged the services rendered by front desk staff in bringing changes at police stations.He added that the IGP had shown his displeasure on their protest call. “The young officers should use designated channels to push their demands”, the PPIO said.

PROJECT: Computer-oriented front desk officers are performing duties at police stations to maintain the record of daily crime, register cases besides maintaining 25 different kinds of police registers.

After appointment on a lump sum pay package of Rs 25000 and Rs32000, the PSAs and SSOs were told they would be given pay scale, service structure and other facilities at a later stage.

In 2015, the department had hired staff for 10 police stations of Lahore as a pilot project.On finding this project successful, the authorities replicated it in other districts and hired over 150 more officers next year.

In 2017, almost 1,100 more people were hired and posted at over 700 police stations of the province.

Following this scheme, the Punjab police department established Complaint Management System (CMS) and the Police Station Record Management System (PSRMS) at all the police stations.

Since then, the civilian staff have been doing their best to convert police stations into high-tech complaint handling centres. The systems helped the police high-ups to get updates on each case any time.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2021

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