FOR decades, successive governments in the country have talked about police reforms. While the latter are essential, it is absurd that politicians should harp on about enhancing the capabilities of the police without ensuring a commensurate increase in crime-fighting resources. Indeed, the required funds are missing in the police budget though crime figures keep pace with an increasing population. According to a report published in this newspaper, the Islamabad police can only spend Rs400 on average per case — around 8,750 cases were investigated last year. For the current fiscal, the capital’s police must work with a meagre sum of Rs3.5m. Understandably, the lack of funds impacts the overall quality of investigations since Rs400 is not even enough to cover the cost of one out-of-city raid while the processes involved in forensic investigations such as fingerprint processing, lab tests, crime scene mapping and sketching of suspects cost thousands of rupees. It is no wonder then that, according to the report, police officials resort to asking complainants for money or pay out of their own pocket for routine procedures that should be paid for by the government. Considering that the Islamabad police come under the purview of the federal government, this destitute state of the capital law-enforcement agency could not be more shocking. Even if the federal government is struggling financially, it should still be able to spare more funds to meet the recurring expenses of the police force of the nation’s capital.

Meanwhile, similar conditions persist in the police forces of all provinces. Effective and transparent investigations are one of the primary functions of any police force and if not performed properly, they can have a negative impact on the law enforcers’ public image. When police officials ask complainants for money for routine procedures, it only reinforces an undesirable public image of the force, and adds to demoralisation in the ranks. An independent and effective law-enforcement infrastructure is in everyone’s interest. The public’s sense of security and confidence in the police force cannot be taken lightly.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2021

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