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What about IT?

Almost a decade since it was launched, no tangible progress has been seen with regards to e-policing. The PITB remains sanguine

What about IT?
A computerised police system, powered by information technology (IT) in order to automate manual processes including FIR, police office records, crime mappings and various other operational tasks, has been introduced at various levels.

Electronic policing, or e-policing, that was famously launched in the year 2005, with the express purpose to put an end to ‘Thana culture’ and to serve people better by improving police efficiency, is history — already. Looking back, it seemed to be a half-hearted attempt on the part of the government which invested more in rhetoric than in practical measures.

A computerised police system, powered by information technology (IT) in order to automate manual processes including FIR, police office records, crime mappings and various other operational tasks, have been introduced at various levels. Despite the passage of almost a decade, no tangible progress is to be seen.

Under e-policing, out of the total 85, Lahore has merely six model police stations including Green Town Police Station, Muslim Town Police Station, Raiwind City Police Station, Shahdara Police Station, Defence-A Police Station, New Anarkali Police Station and Model Town Police Station. Even these do not boast automated police official records, especially the 25 registers run by each police station daily. The CCTV cameras, meant to keep watch over the performance of the police staff, are often out of order. Mere FIR data has been fed electronically and available at the six (abovementioned) police stations.

Surprisingly, the system of e-policing is majorly lacking but the government seems more inclined to enforce biometric attendance system at all police stations in collaboration with the Punjab Information and Technology Board (PITB) to ensure the presence of police personnel during duty hours.

“Like e-policing, e-attendance will meet the same fate,” says a senior police official, on condition of anonymity. “Automation of police records was just a pipedream!

“Such systems are never meant to end the so-called ‘Thana culture’ so that the people can heave a sigh of relief,” he declares. “These are just imported programmes that are obviously weighed down by international obligations and deals.

“Technically, these appear rosy and the government is quick to introduce them as a political stunt.”

 In 2012, the Punjab government identified 100 “Model Police stations” in the province, as part of a project. Each of the stations was provided with two computers, a fax machine and a networking machine.

SSP Investigation (IG office) Agha Muhammad Yousaf says e-policing is fraught with troubles. He terms the lack of maintenance and upgradation as well as insufficient funds as prime reasons for the situation. “Most of the e-policing paraphernalia is integrated with the federal government. Since automation process could not be updated with the passage of time, a criminal data of 1.2 million files of Punjab was stuck in the system.”

The police, Agha Yousaf says, is bothering with manual arrangements.

According to the statistical data received from the office of the IG police, the federal government approved IT schemes (in the Police department) under the title of Police Record and Office Management Information System (PROMIS) in April 2005, at the cost of Rs1.4 billion. Hardware for the project was provided in 2008 whereas first-generation software was installed in August 2010.

In 2012, the Punjab government identified 100 “Model Police stations” in the province, as part of a project that cost Rs189.575 million. Each of the stations was provided with two computers, a fax machine and a networking machine.

The programme was aimed at providing basic IT infrastructure to enhance efficiency, automate police stations’ records including FIRs and office and vehicle management. The system had to link up model police stations with the help of Local Area Network (LAN). It also meant to interlink all police stations of Punjab with the help of Wide Area Network (WAN).

Most of the ‘achievements’ declared on paper and during meetings with the Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif are no more than fables. Even the senior police officials have no idea about PROMIS, e-policing and other kinds of future automation measures regarding e-filing, biometric attendance, biometric registration of criminals and many other police administrative tasks.

Investigation Headquarter Qila Gujjar Singh District Lahore CRO Branch Incharge Muhammad Ahsan Hashmi has very little information about e-policing. He tells TNS that “all systems are being handled manually.”

He also says that such IT processes (in the Police department) are in talks and at the policy level and they are not implemented on ground. “If e-policing exists somewhere, it is at the very basic level.”

A screenshot of the crime intelligence solution. — Image provided by the office of the DG IT, PITB.

A screenshot of the crime intelligence solution. — Image provided by the office of the DG IT, PITB.

PITB Chairman Dr Umar Saif expresses his shock on the issue. He explains how the e-policing system is in place and has multiple advantages.

He also says the government has taken a few initiatives to launch e-policing, in which 5-8 cameras have been installed at the model police stations, PROMIS has been introduced to get 25 registers (Police official record) automated and to enforce citizen feedback system.

The steps, according to Dr Saif, have yielded good results as “we received 7 million calls from the general public as feedback on police performance. As a result, around 4,000 inefficient police officials were shown the door.”

Reportedly, the PITB launched a crime mapping system in August 2014 and has since carried out around 80,000 crime analytics in details using multiple tools.

Each police station has been equipped with two Android mobile phones to photograph the crime scene and transmit information to the central control room. “All crime data is updated every five minutes,” says Dr Umar Saif, adding that the PITB should start sending e-bulletins to police soon.

He also speaks of the PITB introducing a new version of PROMIS. There are plans to enforce e-attendance of police personnel at the police lines, the police stations and places of duty to get rid of the ‘Ghost employees’ phenomenon beginning January 2015. A biometric registration of criminals will also be started.

PITB DG IT Operation Faisal Yousaf says that in order to improve the compliant management system, the PITB would hire 160 IT people to feed people’s complaints at police stations no matter if the FIR is registered or not. This should help to ascertain the gap between the number of complainants entered vis-à-vis those who were entertained. This procedure shall help to mitigate people’s grievances, he said.

The general public, on the other hand, is not very optimistic about the results of e-policing. Most believe that unless the police changes its ‘attitude,’ all digitalisation would go to waste.

Yasir Habib Khan

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