LAHORE - Perhaps, the police are the only department in which cops bribe their colleagues to skip duties, get postings of their choice, and to put on hold inquiries or department proceedings against them. Several policemen enjoyed months-long ‘leaves’ by paying bribe to the police clerks.

The monitoring of the 180,000 strong police was not possible because of the manual system involving duty registers managed by clerks.

Even, a record number of people got jobs in the largest law enforcement agency on “fake orders with real stamps” a few years ago. They had been employed by a gang of cops that gave bogus jobs to a large number of jobseekers. Police last year arrested seven members of the gang (policemen) who had employed at least 136 fake cops in the police service. The gang had been actively operating in the Central Police Office for years with impunity.

Now, the police department in collaboration with the Punjab information and technology board has come up with a high-tech system to plug the loopholes, once and for all.

Many officials say they believe corruption cannot be eliminated from the government departments but the menace can be controlled with the help of modern-era technologies. Some IT-based initiatives introduced in Lahore are virtually helping the police department control corruption.

For instance, the introduction of biometric system and the use of computers to check the attendance and monitor the leaves and transfers/postings of the policemen have been yielding positive results. Following the successful launch of the pilot project in the provincial metropolis, the department is all set to replicate this model in rest of the Punjab province.

A couple of weeks ago, the central police office directed all the district police officers to establish digital monitoring and control rooms on the pattern of the nerve-center already made operational at the office of Lahore DIG (Operations).

According to a letter issued by the deputy inspector general of police (Information Technology), the inspector general of police had directed that all districts should establish an IT-control room on the pattern of the control room operating in Lahore police headquarters. “The IT control rooms should have monitors/LEDs in order to monitor the police station record management system, complaint management system, and Front Desks or reception rooms.”

“An appropriate number of police station assistants and senior station assistants should be posted (there) in order to manage the control rooms.”

As part of this project, at least 578 IT qualified male and female senior station assistants and police station assistants had been enrolled through the Punjab Public Service Commission early this year. At least 422 male and 156 female would work as senior station assistants and police station assistants at the front desks to facilitate the public across the province where more than 700 police stations are located.

Earlier, this newly-recruited civilian staff was given six-week training pertaining to policing, laws, and other relevant courses. The process of their postings in their respective districts has also been completed.

At least 74 front desks have been established in Lahore, 6 in Sheikhupura, 3 in Sahiwal, 21 in Gujranwala, 18 in Rawalpindi, 24 in Faisalabad, 8 in Sargodha, 15 in Multan, two in DG Khan, two in Muzaffargarh, 5 in Bahawalpur, and 10 in Rahim Yar Khan region.

According to police officials, these front desks would be monitored on regular bases from the offices of the district police officer and the regional police officers. For this purpose, special monitoring rooms are being established in district and regional police offices.

These desks are set up in front of the police stations for the convenience of the people and these centers are equipped with the required infrastructure including equipment and furniture.

Lahore DIG Operations Dr Haider Ashraf says the Human Resource Management System will help the police department in the long run since the manual system has been removed. “The pilot project to manage human resource of police is now successfully being used by Lahore Police. The system is being replicated in rest of the Punjab. This (initiative) will enable us to mark attendance on biometric system, record transfers/postings, and leaves of police officials through IT-based system. We can place filters to detect officials with bad service record.”

The Punjab information and technology board helped the corruption-riddled police department introduce such a mechanism. According to Haider Ashraf, “Our IT projects are to be replicated in Punjab. The Lahore model is now being adopted by Punjab Police officially. This is just a glimpse of our systems.”

Last month, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was given a briefing on the human resource management information system and setting up of reception desks in police stations. The chief minister congratulated inspector general police, Lahore DIG (Operations) and the police team for developing the state-of-the-art project in Lahore. He also lauded the efforts of Lahore police for introducing the human resource management information system. He said that updated data of 1.5 lakh police force would be available on one-click as a result of computerisation of the record.

The CM stated that it would help improve efficiency of police force besides giving field postings to the best human resource. The chief minister said that modern reception desks had been set up in 200 police stations of Punjab while reception desks would soon be set up in all police stations of the province. He pledged that all-out resources would be provided to police for this purpose. The CM believed that setting up of reception desks was an important step towards change in Thana culture and reforms in police system.