Police Reforms: Grabbing The Bull By Its Horns

By Ali Hassnain

If you fix economy, law and order, and health care, you fix the country.  While economy is a much discussed issue, let’s leave it and health care aside for a moment and talk about police. If we somehow, by some magic wand fix our police, at least half of our problems would be solved. More resources and tons of other ideas come to one’s mind.  However there is something that we overlook and that’s education. Let’s educate the youth about law and their rights. Let’s humanize the policeman. A small booklet and a subject up to the higher secondary would go a long way. Let’s force students to volunteer at police stations and observe how the system works.

What is the problem? Problem is that laws are difficult to implement. Why are they difficult to implement? They were written for a different era. Situation is further complicated by political appointments, and Civil “Superior” Service and tons of other issues. The problem is that police cannot apprehend the criminals if they follow the procedure, and when they go off book, as they have to almost all the time, high court (even if the session court allows it) throws out the verdict.

Police should be answerable to judiciary and not politicians. Police stations and jails should be improved and humane conditions should be provided to all the convicts and suspects. Special classes should be held so the police can be taught how to deal (or behave) with complainants and suspects.

For the system to work, it is necessary that criminals fear the police. So far so good, how would they fear the police? Answer comes in form of encounters and torture. Why do policemen torture? There is no other practical way of solving a crime in the current system. If only I had a penny for every time an offender caught for a different crime admits to all his previous crimes, giving all the details. When it goes to the court naturally it is extremely difficult to prove.

I am all for civil rights but what justification we have to fight for little violations when police cannot even maintain law and order without such tactics. I am not defending the violations but unfortunately police in our country has evolved into a rag tag militia. Their counter terrorism services aside, we have a serious problem and no one seems to be doing anything about it. Now police is a rag tag militia and politicians have become the de facto warlords when their mandate is strictly limited to law making.

I personally agree with an individual’s right to have weapons at home. Bullets fired from a gun have distinct marks on them; they are like fingerprints of the gun and can be matched with the gun by simply firing a bullet from the same gun and matching it. If you are able to fire another bullet from the same gun, an investigator can match the grooves under a special microscope which displays both bullets side by side, comparing the strata. Since there are several processes involved in rifling a barrel, each barrel is unique.

In the state of New York for example,when a licensed gun is sold to citizens, bullets are fired from it, analyzed and the signature of firearm is collected in a database. By examination of a bullet fired police can match it with the gun using the computerized data in a few seconds. That match is definitive. Price of the exercise should be charged to the license fee. Perhaps we can adopt a similar system. Issue weapons to tax payers or people who pass the background check. Right now it’s a child’s play to get an illegal weapon, however to get a legal weapon one has to jump through hoops. Presently there is a comprehensive ban on the new licenses in the province of Punjab. We need to build a DNA database of criminals. It would be time consuming, slow, expensive, but forensic teams would eventually be able to collect the DNA left and run it through the database. We have to start somewhere.

We have a situation where criminals have guns but law abiding citizens lack this luxury.

Situation of KPK police is far from satisfactory and what we hear is that there has been no political appointment for years. This establishes that one dimensional approach to police is not enough. For starters all communications between police and elected politicians should be banned altogether. Anti Corruption unit should be revamped which can keep a close eye on police. Tours of police stations by students should be arranged on regular bases and they should be informed of their rights. No one should be allowed to join police force through the civil service exams, people should be picked from the existing ranks.

American model is an excellent model by many aspects. DA or district attorney should be an elected person with strict vetting of candidates. When high profile well educated people with their careers and reputation on line would be DAs and assistant DAs or their equivalent in the system prosecution and police would be on the same page. Things are bound to change. Law of evidence can be improved.

What we lack is the information of policing system before the British brought the current system. One is sure a lot of guidelines can help improve the system to bring a new one. After all that was the indigenous police system. I am sure information can be researched by historians.

Duty hours for police should be defined, and they should be provided with job security like the army personals with a strict in department force to check them like the Internal Affairs in the US. The sign of police officers, tired, worn off and half asleep waiting for a lift to get home should be eliminated.

The new policing system can be introduced in provincial capitals first, like the warden system and then perhaps it can be expanded. When we can raise motorway and highway police, and traffic wardens who do not accept bribes under any conditions, when fire brigade department can be phased out by 1122 fire fighters, then this can be done too.

FIA can be reformed to become an institution like FBI in the US; yes, with will and effort it can be done. For that to happen, the whole structure of FIA would have to be revamped.  Criminologists should be hired and specialist teams should be introduced. Some crimes like kidnapping for ransom can be declared federal crime and supervised by a reformed FIA. Special crime solving divisions should be introduced with their jurisdiction being either the province or the whole country.

For God sake, the system where police asks the complainant for the petrol to conduct a raid needs to end. The situation where police asks the victims to find the perpetuators so they can raid and arrest them is a joke. It’s the job of the police.

It’s a rough sketch and there are many brilliant minds in Pakistan who can take this idea further and eventually reform the entire force. I dream of a day when policemen would not ask the complainant for bribe for petrol to raid, or ask them if they know where the culprit is so they can apprehend him. With that there should be a strict check of civil liberties which should be ensured by judiciary. These reforms should be parallel to that of judiciary. We need massive changes in the forensic labs; they should be in every city, at least division under strict federal monitoring.

Police needs to have resources to find the criminals by the use of technology and forensic measures, and someone has to take the initiative. After all this is our country and we must to do it.

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