LAHORE - Ahead of formal inauguration, Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Muhammad Amin Wains has been frequently visiting the newly-established police service centers in 10 selected police stations of the provincial metropolis.

Accompanied by DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf, the Lahore police chief reviewed the progress on the project, working of the newly-appointed staff, and also spoke to visitors during his surprise visits to the Mustafabad, Baghbanpura, and Gulberg police stations last week.

On this occasion, the DIG (Operations) informed that a special complaint cell would also be established to facilitate the complainants so that they would be able get registered their complaints online by a mobile phone call, SMS, email, and even through social network websites. The officers will send feedback to the complainants after solving their problems.

The DSPs and SHOs concerned would be bound to take action on public complaints within 24 hours.

Similarly, the officers will have to register an FIR of dacoity, robbery or theft within a day. In Pakistan’s largest province of Punjab, where half of the total 750 police stations in 36 districts are functioning in rented accommodations, Shahbaz-led government is all set to introduce fundamental changes in police behaviour and the way police interact with citizens.

Under this pilot project, such complaint handling centers or public facilitation units are already established in 10 selected police stations of Lahore which included Gulberg, Baghbanpura, North Cantonment, South Cantonment, Mustafabad, Model Town, Sarwar Road, and Defence-A, B, and C police stations. The authorities intend to expand this project to all over the province subject to its successful launching in Lahore.

For the ordinary visitors, water dispensers are installed alongside comfortable sofas inside the reception areas. Female staff has also been posted at these complaint centers to help the visitors besides creating a soft image of the strong law enforcement agency.

CCPO Muhammad Amin Wains is leading the campaign to introduce reforms in the traditional policing at least in the provincial capital. He believes the establishment of complaint handling centers and postings of admin officers is aimed at winning over public trust and satisfaction through prompt and timely redressal of public complaints by incorporating automated technology solutions for enhanced police accessibility, accelerated processes, and continuous monitoring.

The new system also features an in-built analysis of complaints statistics thereby enabling the Central Police Office and the Inspector General Police to analyse the performance of the field officers.

To some extent, these service centers are an IT section of the police department where the staff would register all types of complaints - ranging from robbery to auto-lifting. Owing to the human discretion, unnecessary filing and inordinate delays, the erstwhile manual system of complaint redressal had lost its efficacy to resolve the issues of the public. This failure of manual complaint management was in turn undermining the cause of justice and public service.

E-policing is electronic collection, storage, and sharing of complaints and information from citizens and it includes requesting information or tips on crime from the public, including particular communities of interest. Because e-policing depends on computer use and Internet access, it would be workable at least in the big cities since the internet use has been increasing across the country.

E-policing opens new ways of doing business for the police, not only through newly available tools but also by creating an interactive flow of information between the police and the citizens.

E-policing fosters two-way communication and provides better access for both the public and the police.

It is not about technical issues; more about cultural changes within police organisations. But the question is whether these organizations ready to work with citizens with electronic tools? Are cops ready to collect and store data on minor crimes that previously were unreported and unrecorded?

The UK experience shows that e-policing can be an efficient two-way communication process. However, it must accommodate all new forms of electronic messages, such as text messaging or digital photos sent from cell phones. Online crime reporting offers benefits for both communities and the police. E-policing is reputed to provide: better access to police officers and less clerical work or if not less clerical work, then a different workflow.

Despite the provincial government, during its more than seven year long tenure, took a lot of initiatives including sufficient raise in pay packages, training of policemen from Pakistan Army, arranging refresher courses for police officers in Turkey, there was no visible changes on the ground as far as police reforms were concerned. Many experts agree that any change in existing police culture in the province, widely viewed as a police state, is a hard nut to crack because of one or the other reason.

However, now it seemed that the CM and the Lahore police leadership are ready to end the Thana culture by kicking off much-needed reforms in the policing.