Protectors still unprotected | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 06, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 06, 2020

Protectors still unprotected

Police walk accused to court in close proximity; most don’t have PPE

At a time when law enforcers are enforcing social distancing among people to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the agency is failing to apply the same for its own members.

Bizarre as it may seem; police still walk accused to the court in close proximity and without proper safety equipment.

"It seems the repeated calls from the directorate of health department to maintain safe distance [one metre between persons] fell on deaf ears," said Mohammad Lokman, a clerk at the court. If one of them gets infected, not only police personnel but also the court staffers and officials will be at risk, he said.

This newspaper on Wednesday afternoon visited the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court in Dhaka and witnessed how poorly police members are maintaining personal hygiene.

According to Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), under the present circumstances every day 10 to 12 accused who are arrested for petty crimes are sent from different police stations to court, which then sends them to jail.

"When they arrive, we spray disinfectant and make them wash hands. There is also a basin," Lokman said at the main entrance of the custody next to the CMM court building in the old town.

These correspondents saw a thin green mark on the basin, which apparently is a soap for cleaning fabrics. While waiting, a police member showed up with a bottle filled with white liquid and sprayed on the correspondents.

Asked, he said the liquid was made of water and Dettol. He, however, did not know how it was prepared. There was bleaching powder on the passage, which led to the elevator and some on the first floor of the building.

A few minutes later, two police officials were seen taking five accused to the court. All of them were walking way too close. Though the officials were wearing fabric masks, they were holding the rope of the handcuffs with bare hand.

"They walk and talk as if there is no coronavirus in the country," said Alim Ahmed, a local.

Asked, one of the officials said, "We bought the mask ourselves. We weren't given any gloves either."

Jafor Hossain, deputy commissioner (prosecution) of DMP, told The Daily Star on Thursday that they have set up multiple basins in front of the CMM court and prison.

"We have instructed every official to wash hands and 

wear masks and gloves before dealing with arrestees and spray disinfectant regularly around court premises," he said. DC Jafor said they have put up awareness posters at different points of the court.

The officials were supposed to follow the instruction properly and a committee has also been formed to oversee that. "We would definitely look into the issue to address the situation," he added.

POOR CONDITIONS AT POLICE STATIONS, BARRACKS

The conditions at police stations and barracks were not that good either.

Talking to this newspaper, an inspector-rank official said they received three to four PPE from their authorities, which is not enough to distribute among all on-duty officials at a police station.

The higher authorities instructed them to wear raincoats for safety but it's quite impossible to perform an eight-hour-long duty wearing raincoats in this hot weather, said the inspector. "Most officials, for this reason, perform duty without wearing those," he added.

The condition of police barracks was no better. Around 30 to 40 policemen live in congested rooms. The distance between beds are about six inches -- a far cry from the three-foot gap suggested by health experts.

Masudur Rahman, deputy commissioner of DMP, however, said they instructed officials to maintain hygiene, wash hands and keep their rooms clean. They have also asked cops not to allow guests, family members and outsiders in the barracks, he added.

On March 31, the home minister in a directive mentioned that Bangladesh Police will ensure distribution of hand gloves, masks, sanitisers and PPE among its officials to protect them from coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police Mohammad Javed Patwary through a text message on Thursday asked officials to ensure their own safety as well as their families, colleagues and subordinates. The IGP also asked officials to remain more cautious about personal hygiene while dealing with people.

DMP has about 34,000 members, according to officials.

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