LAHORE - Finally, Provincial Police Officer Arif Nawaz Khan has hinted that the Lahore Police Model of reform will be implemented across the Punjab province. All the regional and district police officers have been asked to replicate the schemes launched in the sprawling city in recent years.

The inspector general of Punjab Police last week visited the “digital operation rooms” at the Lahore police headquarters. The IGP lauded the efforts of Lahore police for introducing several IT-based initiatives in addition to raising specialised units.

On this occasion, the IGP said that the use of modern technology is need of the hour that should be adopted for successful policing. Arif Nawaz Khan appreciated the working of Operations and Investigation wings of the city police with regard to geo-fencing, criminal record management system, mobile tracking system, and fingerprints matching system.

While addressing the launch ceremony of e-filing system at DIG (Operations) Office on Friday, he said the Lahore police had played a leading role by using the modern technology. “Lahore police are a trendsetter in use of computer technology and launch of e-filing system as a pilot project at DIG Operations Office is a step forward,” he said. This will help the department cut burden of case files besides facilitating citizens in many ways.

The IGP also observed that a huge amount of money being spent annually under the head of stationery would be saved through e-filing system and now citizens would not have to carry files and papers. Chairman of Punjab Information Technology Board Dr Umar Saif, CCPO Amin Wains, DIG Haider Ashraf and SSP Rana Ayyaz Saleem were also present on this occasion.

In recent years, Lahore police introduced many new schemes as part of the police reforms project, including modern patrol units (with cars and heavy-bikes), digital operation rooms, anti-riot units, model police stations, smart checkpoints, and local surveillance system.

Also, thousands of officers were given smart phones for real-time information and feedback. The city police department launched different mobile phone applications like Local Eye, Hotel Eye, and Welfare Eye to improve police working and monitoring.

DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf termed the e-filing initiative a milestone in the police history. “Digital duty roster and new digital card (has been introduced) for Lahore police. The QR code will enable Lahore Police to identify its men. Security features embedded card will be connected to Human Resource Management System and thus enable us to identify our men at duty points. The digital duty roster will prevent discretion of Moharrer in police station vis a vis deployment of force.”

According to DIG (Operations), the city police would offer at least seven services to citizens at the newly-inaugurated Zahid Gondal Shaheed Service Centre at one window. “We also inaugurated first paperless police office here. Record keeping, monitoring, tracking, and communication will get much cheaper and easy. At least we are trying. Thanks all who supported us in our purpose,” the officer said.

Last year, the city police department converted at least 20 police stations into model stations. The new model unveiled by the end of last year has digital operations room and latest tracking system to monitor the police operations round-the-clock at local level. Authorities are giving final touches to the project that would help government provide “respectable atmosphere” to the officers and public as well, but only in Lahore.

More than three years ago, the provincial government citing budget constraints had shelved a similar plan to build at least 100 model police stations across the Punjab province. The government had established some new buildings in different cities of the province for the project that was never made operational.

But the Lahore police had launched the initiative by utilising available resources and funds. Each model police station was established with an estimated cost of Rs1 million to Rs1.2 million. As part of the plan, a high-tech command and control system, public friendly waiting areas, investigation rooms, work stations and recordkeeping rooms have been developed in each model police station. Similarly, barracks with new bedding and mess rooms have been established for the wellbeing of the policemen.

DIG Haider Ashraf, who himself designed the new police station model, says the basic purpose of the scheme was to strengthen police stations. “Hopefully, we will be able to establish a model in which the police station staff is not only monitored but also looked after properly. Officers serving at police station level must be given due respect. We believe this step can trigger a change, a healthy and positive change,” he observed. “There would be an operation room for each SHO to monitor police operations through an IT-based system. Investigation (of crime suspects) will also be monitored through this room.”

In August 2015, Lahore police had launched a new fleet of patrol cars to help curb crime in the provincial capital. More than 200 high-spec customised cars, equipped with cameras, megaphones, search lights, and first-aid kits, are part of the fleet.

The Police Response Units have been deployed at several crime hotspots and areas of concerns all over the city to ensure a quick reaction to any incident on the streets. The Lahore City police have been divided into 287 beats and each one has an assigned patrol car, beat officer, driver, and two gunmen. Dolphin motorcycle units are on patrol in the beats.

While efforts are under way to introduce “paperless policing” in the provincial metropolis, hundreds of police stations located in far-flung districts are found in shabby conditions with no proper record maintenance. Citizens still hesitate to visit these police stations. Because of poor monitoring and supervision, victims of crimes and violence are often discouraged. Complaints of corruption are also common.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif recently approved establishment of Dolphin Force to control street crimes in Rawalpindi, Multan, Faisalabad and Gujranwala. The initiative of a smart patrol police on the pattern of Turkish national police had been launched in Lahore last year.

It seemed that other districts of the Punjab province are no more priority of the policymakers as far as police reforms are concerned.

The Lahore police department has distinguished itself as a model of police reform. The city police department has made tremendous strides in curbing street crimes and improving overall law and order situation.

The provincial government has announced time and again that the new projects of surveillance with modern technology would be extended to other districts. But that still remains a slogan.