Police leadership neglect need for technology-led policing

Pakistan on 26 June 2013
Location : Pakistan | Source : Dawn. Image Source: Flickr User f2point8

THE pattern and frequency of crime and terrorism are impacted by technological innovations.

While this creates constantly changing challenges for law-enforcement agencies, technology also enables them to increase their effectiveness and problem-solving capacities.

In Pakistan, however, the ruling elites and the police leadership have yet to respond to the need for technology-led policing. The local policing model is colonial and outdated; the increasing use of technology is essential.

As a most basic example, worldwide the use of the computer in law-enforcement is increasing. Computers are used for a variety of police functions such as crime investigation, information-sharing and record management.

Here, however, the policing model is still dependent on registers mentioned in the Police Rules of 1934. But the increase in crime and the population makes it difficult to maintain manual data. Without information and intelligence, policing this country is tantamount to wandering in the dark.

Article 14 of the Police Order 2002 explicitly pertains to the need for hiring experts, but the majority of uniformed officials are either biased or reluctant to do so.

Policing is no longer a general job and requires expert input. Extremist organisations engage in headhunting to recruit the right ‘talent’ for the job, eg master-trainers who have taught hundreds of people to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs). But the police department is yet to train its men in how to defuse an IED.

The same piece of legislation, in Article 8-2b, also provides a road map for the introduction of technology in policing, while Article 19 provides the inspiration to modernise telecommunications vis-à-vis policing. The police leadership has, however, proved itself to be a custodian of the status quo.

To achieve meaningful change, the police leadership has to improve its credibility and public service record. The prevailing trust deficit between the public and the police means that the latter cannot convince the political elite to invest in policing.

But political and bureaucratic circles will have to realise that investment in policing is a developmental activity and one that, crucially, might guarantee peace.

Technology can make policing a much more efficient and cost-effective activity. Given the increased demand and massive levels of production, the cost of technological equipment is diminishing. And while it may be argued that for a country such as Pakistan technology is nevertheless a costly affair, we cannot compromise our future.

That said, there is an urgent need to ensure transparency, quality-control and accountability in planning and procuring technology.

Yet when and if the technology is procured, getting the force to adapt will be another significant challenge for the police leadership and the department’s training academies.

Violent extremists use a variety of technology, including smart phones, satellite imagery and night-vision goggles, to name just a few. Our policing is restricted to a gun and a wireless radio. The extremists use the internet and the social media but the few websites urban police units in Pakistan run have not proved their interactivity with the citizens. At the very least, capital city police units could offer e-policing services — which would also provide the opportunity to improve the image of urban police organisations.

Closed-circuit television cameras can prevent crime and facilitate in the identification of offenders, as well as save time and costs in terms of investigators and the court system.

These cameras have been installed in a few urban areas but overwhelmingly, the police either lacks the capacity or the funds to extract the full benefits. Last year, while a case of an explosion at a railway station was being investigated, it turned out that the CCTV network was not functional.

In areas beset by terrorism, the detection of explosives and firearms is not possible without employing technological assistance. Pakistan’s police force has lost two bomb disposal experts over the last six months defusing IEDs.

Another area where technology can prove invaluable is in the detection of drugs.

Meanwhile, DNA analysis has brought about significant improvements in police investigations, reducing the number of wrongful arrests and enhancing the reliability of evidence.

The establishment of more DNA-testing facilities, a databank and increased coordination between the police and DNA laboratories would further improve the quality of investigation.

As a consequence of the Police Order 2002, initiatives such as the automated fingerprint identification system were introduced. The Police Record and Office Management Information System aims at connecting police stations with district police officers and the digitalisation of first-information reports and investigative processes.

However, the impact of such initiatives is yet to be ascertained. The ground reality is that poor complainants remain dependent on access to and the discretion of moharars (station clerks) and station-house officers.

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