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Police find new gear comfy, but miss the ‘awe’ of the old

Police find new gear comfy, but miss the ‘awe’ of the old

LAHORE: Donning new uniform since March, the policemen on field duty find the new olive green outfit comfortable in harsh weather but regret that it does not command the “respect” as their old black and khaki one would.

A policeman, Zahid Latif, told Dawn that they felt comfortable and smart “like a commando” in the new uniform in the extreme weather conditions.

Listing the merits of their new attire, he said it had extra pockets and it could be worn without the outer jacket as well. But he misses the “sense of awe” the old one would instill among the criminals. “Now, neither the public nor the criminals are afraid of us,” he complains.

About its quality, he said the new uniform’s colour started fading after a wash or two and ironing.

Sheikh Saqib, a human right activist, said, “When I used to see a policeman on the road it would create a sense of fear in me. However, the new police uniform has drastically reduced that fear,” hoping it would help bridge the gap between police and the public.

He was of the view that because a lot of malpractices were associated with the old police uniform, the new one was creating a positive impact among the public.

Another policeman deputed at a picket in DHA, seeking anonymity complained it was very difficult for him to discharge 14-hour duty in the new uniform made of stiff fabric. He argued that the material was good for winter, but in the sweltering June heat when the mercury goes above 40 degrees Centigrade in the city it become unbearable to do the field duty in the new gear.

He deplored that the policemen had to buy inner t-shirts from their own pocket as the new attire did not include the light shirts for summer.

Instead, he said, they were given full-sleeve inner shirts made of warm material. He was also not satisfied with the “uncomfortable” long boots provided to the force that had mostly 12-hour field duty.

He said the new uniform and the boots might have been inspired by the military attire, but the regular duty hours of army men were shorter than that of police. “So we need some relief in this hot weather; give us something comfortable to wear so we can easily perform our field duties,” he said.

A policeman, Yasir, said that although they were comfortable in the new uniform but they were sometimes ridiculed for its colour.

“We feel ashamed when people confuse us with security guards,” he said.

A police spokesman said the authorities were trying to address the colour fading problem in the new uniform. “We have replaced more than two dozen uniforms after receiving colour fading complaints. The policemen have been asked to give the feedback whether the issue got resolved or not” he said. However, he said the new uniform was more comfortable than the old one.

It’s the second time after the creation of Pakistan that the police uniform has been changed. For the first time the uniform was changed in 1958 by the martial law government from full khakhi to black shirt and khaki pent. At that time most of the police officers had opposed the new uniform because it did not suit the climate of the country but to no avail.

After some 69 years, Punjab former inspector general of police (IGP) Mushtaq Sukhera took the initiative to change the uniform following a survey and detailed deliberations among the police officials.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Sukhera said the uniform was changed because it was difficult for the personnel to perform their duties during summers wearing the old one. “The reason behind introducing the new uniform was the harsh climatic conditions of the country, because a police have to perform their duty in extreme summer. The black shirt and khakhi pent with woolen cap was problematic” he said.

He said 72 percent of the police officials had voted for the olive green uniform in a survey which the department conducted to know their opinion.

He said the other aspect was symbolic in nature as the government wanted to change the Punjab police traditional culture and uniform was one of the components discussed by the authorities for bringing about the change.

Mr Sukhera said most of the police officers were of the view that changing the uniform would undermine their authority and no one including criminals would be afraid of them. “I rejected the officer’s apprehensions, telling them they were not rulers” he said.

“Police are not here to terrorise and rule but they are here to serve and protect the public,” the ex-IG said, adding that the new uniform was comfortable and one could wear it easily for two to three days without washing it because of its darkish colour.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2017

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