Resources, trainings, logistics

Why can’t police stations function the way they ought to?

Resources, trainings, logistics

Inspector Muhammad Ali (not his real name), in-charge of a police station in Sialkot has 35 officials at his disposal, including two sub-inspectors (SIs), five assistant sub-inspectors (ASIs) and 28 constables. Out of the 28 constables, there is one muharrar, two naib muharrar, two drivers, three deputed on security of the building, and one deputed on the security duty.

"At the end of the day, I am left with around 18-19 constables. Three of them are deputed solely to investigate cases," says Ali.

This police station, which has two cars and three motorcycles, covers 78 villages in its jurisdiction. "The department provides 10 litres of petrol for one car and two litres for one motorcycle per day -- both for patrolling and conducting raids. This is all the department provides a police station with, except some stationery," he says.

Ali says the rest of the expenditures, including extra fuel for cars, motorbikes and stationery, are borne by the police officials.

Annually, about 700 cases are registered in this police station. There are only four police officials deputed to the investigation wing in the police station. "They have not done any special training. Two of them joined the police 20 years ago as constables and have never undergone any departmental training during the last ten years or so," says Ali.

Usually investigators are supposed to complete investigation of a case within three months. They have to submit the initial report in 15 days. "This involves gathering information about the accused, arranging vehicles, conducting raids, and investigating as well as paperwork," says an investigation officer deputed in Lahore who does not want to be identified.

"Complainants have to bear the cost of investigations in almost all cases. A majority of investigators have hired retired police officers to do the paperwork that has to be submitted in the courts," he says.

A senior police officer, Syed Kaleem Imam, who has served in all provinces, including Islamabad, says in his research paper titled, Good Governance and Police Administration in Pakistan, published in 2011, only 5.44 per cent of the constables were trained in the 32 districts (278 police stations), though it is mandatory for constables to undergo training every year.

"During the collection of primary data it was learnt that SHOs in 278 police stations were asked how accountable were they for their actions and responses? About 30 per cent of respondents felt only moderately accountable for their actions. 18 per cent of SHOs did not respond to this query, it appears they do not even feel accountable enough to respond," reads the paper.

In Punjab, half of the total of 750 police stations are housed in rented buildings and only 100 of them are declared as model police stations. An in-charge of a model police station is given Rs50,000 per month to bear expenses while an in-charge of the rest of the 650 police stations bear all expenses on their own.

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A senior police official deputed at the office of the Inspector General of Police, Punjab tells TNS that an internal research of the department a few years ago found that an in-charge of a police station needs a budget of at least Rs100,000 per month to run the affairs smoothly. "The cost is not borne by the police officials but people," he says.

The total budget of police in Punjab is around Rs100 billion. "85 per cent of the Punjab police’s budget is spent on staff salaries. Funds for the working of police stations like money to be spent on transport and stationery are given to the district police officers (DPOs). The distribution often depends on the whims of DPOs."

Lahore is the only city in the province which has a separate investigation wing with around 1000 dedicated officials. An average 80,000 cases are registered in Lahore annually. The total annual budget for investigations for Lahore district is around Rs25 million. "One investigation officer needs to handle around 120 cases per year in Lahore but many of these cases take months. In most cases, complaints either need a reference or use ‘other means’ to get services of investigators. They are always overburdened," says a senior police official of investigation wing in Lahore.

According to the officer, around 10,000 cases are registered in Lahore every year, including 4000 related to financial matters, 4000 cases of robberies, 1000 car thefts, and 600 murder cases. "The police trace only 30-35 per cent cases related to robberies and 15-20 per cent cases related to car theft while conviction rate in all cases, except murder cases, is 5-7 per cent."

He believes the capacity of police investigators is a bigger issue than availability of resources. "Lawyers are also a major stakeholder of the whole system. There are around 35,000 lawyers in Lahore while only 8,000 police officials on operational duties. They get many criminal cases registered and also influence the investigation process directly," he says.

The total budget of the Punjab Police under the head of Cost of Investigation is Rs97 million for 2013-14 but the department spent only Rs75 million for investigation last year and returned the remaining Rs22 million to the provincial kitty.

"Two factors are responsible for that. The official system to pay back expenditures to the Investigation Officers (IOs) is complicated. And secondly, a majority of investigation officers (IOs) ask the complainants to bear travel, food, and raid expenses and later try to fill their pockets with official amounts released under the Cost of Investigation," says a senior police official.

"A majority of police stations in Lahore do not have proper washrooms, drinking facilities, and lock-ups. We cannot change policing without providing resources and training," says a former chief of Lahore police. "The retirement age of a constable is 60 years and a majority of them got training 15-20 years ago. The overwhelming majority of terrorists are aged between 18-30 years. Do you think a 50 year old can take on a 20 year old?" he asks.

The situation is even worse in remote areas. "Police stations use at least three times more fuel than is provided to them by the department. We have never asked them how they manage it," says a DPO from South Punjab. "I have 20 police stations in my district and 1,600 constables but 750 of them are deputed on security duties, 250 of them are drivers and 150 of them are from the elite force. So, it leave only 400-500 constables to manage the whole district."

Roughly, 12-15 constables are deputed in rural police stations and 20-22 in urban police stations in his district. "The department can not even provide stationery to all police stations," the DPO says.

He adds that every investigation officer in the district handles 20 to 30 cases simultaneously. "It is not humanly possible to give results in 30 cases at a time and in a situation where none of them is trained properly to conduct investigations."

Resources, trainings, logistics