Of law and order—the police: | Pakistan Today

Of law and order—the police:

  • How policing can be fixed

“I have always believed, that to have true justice, we must have equal harassment under the law”——-Paul Krassner, American author (1932-2019)

Of all state institutions, the police are the most visible, the first responders, the most hard-worked and the most vilified department all over the world. Of the four sub-systems of the criminal justice system, namely parliament, police, courts, and prison, police are the most omnipresent and thus the focus of both-the citizen and the media. This body of men and women is in the eye of the storm in most public conflict situations. Needless to say, this department therefore needs to be in continuous and robust public debate.

As the coercive strong arm of the state to enable a general writ of the law, the police are often unjustly resented by the citizenry even if they are exercising moderate control within the powers given to them under the law. This is a general statement and does not excuse any single act of misuse of legal authority, for that is a criminal offence irrespective of any reason. Police brutality, which is so common world-wide, is unforgivable and must be put down by the state. Any government which relies on police brutality for political reasons is bound to be short lived.

Nearer home, let’s take a closer look at policing in Pakistan.

About a decade ago the National Police Academy decided to introduce a Command Course for District Police Officers (DPOs). A very exhaustive and inclusive Job Task Analysis was done by a donor agency which found that a DPO was required to do 93 different actions as a mandate for his post. These were then clumped in a workable course with various modules which were: prevention of crime; detection of crime; prosecution of offenders; community policing; media relations; recruitment of staff; training of staff; discipline of staff; maintenance of police buildings, wireless networks and transport; introduction of new technology; budgeting; public complaints; touring of district; and court cases.

The fact of the matter is that government after government has failed to deliver quality policing which is a fundamental right of the citizen. Ridiculously, each successive government uses the police as its political strong arm. The moot point is as to who has who in its pocket! This unholy alliance needs public focus

This course has so far had a few iterations administered to senior Assistant and Deputy Superintendents of Police. My purpose in dilating a bit on this is to illustrate that policing is a very complex activity, and not really a government job but a way of life, seeing that under the law, a police officer is on duty 24/7 year in and year out. So next time you feel like cursing the policeman kindly recall that he or she has a tough deal.

Having said this, I would also like to offer for your consideration some factors that have made the police the general whipping boy, and the removal of which are necessary if we want a more responsive, empathic, efficient, and service-oriented organization.

Firstly, the rank structure of the police is highly skewed; of the total strength of the service, there are only 12 percent supervisory, investigative, and mid-range manpower. The rest are constables/head constables who do not have the powers of arrest, search, and seizure under the Criminal procedure Code. Thus, 88 percent of all uniformed police are Watch & Ward stuff. Therefore for the next ten years, government should ban all recruitment at the level of constable, and recruit two Assistant Sub Inspectors against three retiring constables/head constables. If they want to improve the quality of policing, this is a win-win in many ways.

Secondly, te police is horribly under-funded. The present money allocation goes in the high 90 percents on pay and allowances. Chief Ministers never apply their mind to fund policing as on a top priority; whereas in many developed countries the annual budget document often mention policing in the Preamble to the budget. How many finance ministers have you heard mention the police except in passing in their budget speech each year? None?  Goes to show! Huge resources are required to build a modern policing structure. And it has to be a state policy, and not governmental caprice.

Thirdly, senior postings should be tenure-protected. The Police Order 2002 mandated this practice, but provincial government in collaboration with senior serving police officers manages to trash this rule, even in provinces which have adopted the Police Order as their basic police law. So the Chief Minister keeps shunting senior most police supervisors (IG, DIG, SSP, SP) left and right at his pleasure, and the officers love this game of musical chairs. It is pathetic. Merit is the last of the considerations with a CM on an ego trip. And there are always senior police officers sitting in the office of his Secretary, scheming to get a colleague out of some ‘coveted’ post, if only for a few weeks till another colleague manages to displace them. Such activity reflects the worst kind of governance, leading to many distortions in law enforcement.

Fourthly, modern technology paradigms designed specifically to fit our particular policing aspirations are the need of the hour. Luckily, Pakistan now has the requisite internet network plus a huge pool of world-class IT experts. Immediate infusion of the political/administrative is the only shortfall in this no-brainer suggestion.

Lastly, it is imperative that policing is transparent, proactive, and accountable. There have to be internal controls on illegal overreach by a more effective zero-tolerance attitude among supervisory officers; externally, the government, the courts, and the media should keep an eagle eye on police excesses, corruption, and brutality. These ills are not particular to Pakistan but are observed to be worldwide, and therefore the control-on-police models adopted abroad should be looked at for effective oversight of policing.

The foregoing just scratches the surface of the law and order scene specific to the police. Police reform in this country has been the favorite hobby of each incoming government since 1947. Commissions and committees galore have spent billions in putting together comprehensive findings and suggesting remedial action, but report after report sits in official archives gathering dust unimplemented.

The fact of the matter is that government after government has failed to deliver quality policing which is a fundamental right of the citizen. Ridiculously, each successive government uses the police as its political strong arm. The moot point is as to who has who in its pocket! This unholy alliance needs public focus.