Along with healthcare professionals, the institution of the police also has a frontline role in combatting the spread of coronavirus cases in the country. Policemen, at the risk of their own health, are needed to implement social distancing guidelines to reduce further escalation of cases. Implementing unprecedented rules in an unprecedented time requires additional communication with citizens, with more inclusive outreach.

Commendably, the Islamabad Police Department comprehends the role that effective communication with citizens can play in implementing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and has taken steps to increase coordination with community members. It is increasing outreach and simultaneously encouraging people to limit social interaction by holding “e-katcheris”, online sessions where communities can interact with the police rather than file their complaints in the police station. This Tuesday, at the third such e-katcheri held, IGP Islamabad Muhammad Aamir Zulfiqar listened to the problems of citizens and assured to resolve public problems on merit. He also further reiterated safety and security measures which citizens need to undertake now that lockdown has eased. These sessions have been attended by some members of parliament as well, in a move that brings further transparency.

The lockdown restrictions may have been eased but this does not mean that the risks of the epidemic have reduced. SOPs have to be respected by citizens for their own sake, and the police plays an essential role in implementing them. With the arrival of Eid and people crowding the markets for Eid shopping, non-implementation of SOPs can be disastrous. To ensure these extraordinary measures are followed, the police, now more than ever require a more open line of communication with citizens. Regular exchanges such as these help improve institutions; finding ways to bring greater inclusivity and all opinions to the table must be seen as the next step.