Lahore, Pakistan– A research on the existing criminal justice system (CJS) recently carried out by a group of Punjab police officers as a part of their ongoing promotional course at the National Institute of Management Lahore has pointed out severe weaknesses in the police investigation wing.
According to the research paper, weaknesses in investigation, structural flaws in the whole system and lack of coordination among its stakeholders at grass-roots level have been causing an increase in litigation in society, dismally low conviction rate and overcrowding factors in prisons.
It observes that the existing system is not fully exhausted at operational level and there is an ample space within the system for effective service delivery.
The paper pinpoints several weaknesses in the process from evidence collection in a criminal case to the conviction and from jail term to corrections, recommending few actions on urgent basis, especially merger of prosecution wing with the police, least interference in police affairs, decentralisation of administrative and financial autonomy, strengthening of investigation wing by injecting more manpower and funds and grass-roots level coordination among officials of police, prosecution, court and jail.
A majority of suggestions have been recommended with additional input by Capital City Police Officer Muhammad Aslam Tareen recently while few of those have been disagreed.
The paper, a copy of which is available to Dawn, was prepared by the officers of 11th Mid-Career Management Course in Lahore. They visited two Lahore police stations-Kot Lakhpat and Defence A- as well as district camp jail. The paper focuses on the capacity and training of the investigators (who are not capable of conducting investigation keeping forensic issue in mind as most of them are incapable of deciphering a medico-legal certificate which is in English), suggesting the setting up of an independent investigation cadre with declaring 80 per cent newly-recruited trainee ASIs of Lahore police (which comes to 160) as investigators.
It says the investigation cadre initially can be done by the provincial police chief in form of a standing order and later if the integration between other cadres and investigation cadre is smooth an attempt can be made to make the initiative permanent by amending Police Rules through provincial government’s concurrence.
By imparting training on scientific lines and teaching courses underlined in the Punjab Police Rules 1934, the objective of making them proficient in investigations with specialisation in criminal investigations like kidnapping for ransom, homicide, robbery/dacoity, financial crime etc could be achieved.
The paper says in five years Lahore police will have 800 professionally trained investigating officers with sub-specialisations. Roughly it will be 11 investigators per police station in Lahore.
All dead wood in the investigation branch of Lahore police may be removed only to be replaced by the specifically trained police investigators and those officers may be employed on relatively mundane job of maintenance of public order and patrolling.
As part of the investigation cadre as support staff, the concept of investigating constables (the most neglected), which will multiply to 1,500 in five years and support investigating officers in all investigation work except sensitive raids, may be introduced with one-year rigorous training in support role to the IOs.
The paper, realising that the resources provided to the police are humongous and trickle down has problems (for example Rs195 cost of investigation per case if total allocated CoI worth Rs14.6m of Lahore police is divided on average 75,000 cases annually), suggests that there is a strong case to rethink the budgeting process or else to order the district police officers to delegate financial powers under intimation to the regional police officers to their SPs while other operational expenses earmarked for police stations in the consolidated budget of the Lahore police like POL, repair, stationery may be devolved to the police stations in the shape of an automated ‘Budget Document’ supervised by the SP operations.
The paper further suggests that all 25 registers and other relevant office jobs like case diaries in a police station are required to be automated in an interactive fashion for which the software and its applications must be uniform throughout the province. PROMIS (prosecutors’ management information system), a project of the ADB’s Access to Justice Programme, is a useful option which is designed to integrate investigation, prosecution and judicial components of the CJS. The paper further says that the hardware is already installed in the police stations and allied offices of Lahore police but what is required is necessary capacity building to start the automation process in three months for change in police culture.
The paper also highlights non-access of police to the data of Nadra, excise, PROMIS and subscriber data, lack of human resource management, poor coordination of police investigators with the prosecution department, absence of surveys and crime analysis and poor functioning of internal accountability system.
It recommends the establishment of central data bank in integrated form and its access to the police station. It further recommends introducing shift system to enhance the productivity and quality.
It is opined that prosecutors most of the time try to become IOs and press directions on investigative issues and if they are not obliged the cases are not forwarded while in the previous system the prosecution was a policing function. It is suggested that meeting of divisional SPs investigation with the concerned prosecutors may be formalised to monitor and supervise the cases.
Similarly monthly meeting between the head of the investigation branch of Lahore police and district public prosecutor should also be formalised to monitor overall performance, specifically to check corrupt practices at various stages from investigation to prosecution of a criminal case.
In order to improve the police image, third-party validation mechanism by inviting students of different prestigious universities be taken up in the form of independent surveys and crime analysis through them.
The paper in the last suggests that a dedicated unit (which should work on the lines of NYPD Internal Affairs Unit) of internal accountability of junior officers may be set up at the SSP (discipline and inspections) office to ruthlessly check corruption and highhandedness in the Lahore police. And the best way to make it effective is to mandate it with assignments which must be monitored periodically by senior police officers.
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