Responsive law enforcement
Law enforcement is an integral component of the justice delivery system. They are entrusted with providing services to all citizens and making their lives safe and secure. According to the Constitution of Bangladesh, all citizens are equal before the law and as part of their fundamental rights are entitled to equal protection (Article 27, 31 Constitution of Bangladesh). This constitutional responsibility to protect the people is in the hands of the police and other related forces. The second national poverty reduction strategy specifies the transformation of the law enforcement agencies' roles and makes clear that the government is focused on pro-people services.
Law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh are always working to fulfill their obligation to provide protective services to all citizens and make Bangladesh a better and safer place to live and work. The police have been implementing reforms and providing better services in order to improve to ensure greater safety and security, and uphold the rule of law. As an important part of modernizing the police and their services, new technologies are to be incorporated. The government realizes that the incidence and severity of crime has climbed too high, and that certain measures need to be taken to immediately address the problem starting with strengthening law enforcement agencies.
There are four key problems in the law enforcement system that needs to be addressed: a) skills of law enforcement agency employees in ICT use; b) agencies do not appear legitimate, safe, and useful in the eyes of the public; c) reliable, high speed network connectivity and d) so called 'cyber crimes' are becoming more common and threaten safe access to Internet based services, exchanges of information and data.
Compared to many other agencies within the government, the police have made significant progress in the last five years. The Bangladesh police have initiated an IT (cyber) crime investigation facility along with other ICT based interventions. It uses biometrics, a technology that identifies people using physical characteristics such as fingerprints or retinal scans. Fingerprints have been used to identify people for a long time. Until recently they were taken by covering the fingertips with ink and pressing down on paper - now they are scanned electronically. CID already has its project on automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS). With this system, finger prints recovered from crime scenes can be checked and verified within the criminal database in a fraction of a second.
DNA analysis is another technique that has become very important for identifying both victims and criminals. Some of the police units like SB, CID, and DMP are using off-the-shelves software like Analyst Note Book for analyzing data and generating visual representation. The Modernization of DMP Control Room project initiated tetra digital tracking communication system with CCTVs and an automated vehicle location system to respond quickly in times of emergency. This project also set up digital display boards in Dhaka to inform citizens about the traffic situation.
The Criminal Intelligence Analysis Unit (CIAU) is digitally documenting case information in relation to trafficking, murder, forgery and terrorism. An electro static document analyzer (ESDA) enables the police force to analyze handwriting. Sharing the BRTA database of the highway police through mobile phones can reduce vehicle theft, forgery of driving licenses or vehicle registration. This technology may also help police narrow their searches of suspects in a more effective manner.
The police are in great need of secured and dependable connectivity to share and exchange data both vertically and horizontally. The positive impact of a project that put computers into the police stations of 15 districts may now be extended to include all areas. All district, metropolitan, range and training institutes may be under a Wide Area Network. In Metropolitan Police Areas WIMAX based WAN may be established whereas in all highway/ range stations and posts may be connected through VPN. The connectivity that links all DCs and UNOs may be extended for Police usage to join all 64 SP office and 600 police stations. Though already in place, software is not yet functional due to an absence of connectivity.
Special emphasis should be given to the ICT literacy of officers who have direct interface with citizens to deliver various services that can be automated through ICTs. Police may be crucial to helping develop the ICT skills of officers at various ranks that are working in the field. First and foremost, the police may train and prepare 3000 officers who may be taking active role in implementing the vision for 2010. As a second priority, some constables and all officers from ASI upward may be gradually provided with basic IT literacy.
Manual record keeping and management of information dramatically slows down the emergency response process. And maintaining the system through the manual collection of information from police stations is cumbersome and time consuming. To learn about any filed complaint's progress or the status of a passport application takes the valuable time and resources of citizens. ICTs can play a significant role here. A system should be put in place to log and update records of complaints along with the details of all investigative officers that are involved. Pleaders may then be able to view the progress of the complaint and all stages of the process either on line or by a telephone call or SMS.
Custody records for prisoners held in police stations can be used to help prepare court cases. Passport verification reports can easily be generated using SMS. Citizens' access to the pending status of under-investigation and under-trial cases using SMS may be another service improvement. This may make the process easy and client friendly. A criminal justice intranet network can allow the police and other organizations to communicate and share documents securely.
The successful implementation of these office tools may add to the managerial and administrative efficiency of the department and in turn may benefit the public service delivery of the department and ensure the best use of tax-payers money. The Police force may use palm prints in addition to fingerprints to identify people and facial recognition systems are becoming increasingly important as more evidence is collected on CCTV cameras. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras can tell police officers within seconds whether a vehicle has been stolen or is known to be involved in crimes. By sharing BRTA data over mobile phones, the highway police can use ICTs to reduce vehicle theft, and the forgery of driving licenses and vehicle registration.
Crime data management systems (CDMS) may be installed in all districts and divisional head quarters. In collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and the Special Branch (SB), the government is planning to collect the visa information of visitors online using a virtual private network (VPN). This may be tagged with online visa application options. Radio connectivity among SB, Shahjalal International Airport and the central passport office may all contribute to the airport document analysis centre (DAC) which monitors immigrants' movement.
Citizens' access to police services, starting with access to police stations to lodge complaints regarding violation of rights, may be strengthened. The present limitations of quality services and emergency responses from the agencies must be resolved. ICTs may play a significant role in meeting these challenges. One of the most effective ways to start resolving these issues is by increasing the use of mobile phone based services such as help lines with online options of filing and getting help in case of an emergency. Those using these services may receive updated information through a website and when required, by telephone call or SMS, empowering them with the knowledge of what the police process is. .
Through the Access to Police Information (A2PI), victims of crimes may be updated with the status of their case through SMS. To provide better access to police services, the government has introduced an online General Diary (GD) under the “Citizens' Help Request” page. The diary provides a space for people to alert police about lost passports or certificates, give routine information about tenants, or reports on the movement of police suspects. Police Headquarters are also going to introduce online provisions that may provide legal assistance to expatriates. To implement these priorities into effective applications, an effective inter-agency coordination plan may be developed with clearly designated responsibilities.
The author is an Advocate and Socio-legal Analyst.