According to prevalent thinking of security officials, deployment of maximum number of security officials is an indicator of quality of protection of persons and premises in urban spaces. Emphasis is on visible security measures to deter the assailants and saboteurs. There is another social dimension to this visibility because in our society presence of uniformed and armed personnel with a person is correlated with stature and power one holds in the higher echelons. Moreover, fact that there is need to respond any response to threats will still in human form, it is considered economical to rely on the traditional deployment of security officials for all purposes. In some cases, CCTV cameras are also used in addition to physical deployment but the response remains primarily through human resources with little value addition by technology.
There may be many other factors behind display of arms and armed guards but there is miniscule evidence that these measures unsupported by additional intelligence sources have helped in thwarting attacks on important personalities and on key locations. It is required, therefore, to think about shifting the focus from visible paraphernalia to invisible measures for ensuring security in urban settings.
In many big cities of the world like London, Glasgow, New York, Mexico, Nairobi, Dubai and Qatar, it is considered to replace human foot print on streets with digital eyes and ears through an integrated command and control system. It is not a conventional approach prevalent in most of the countries of the world as it calls for high investments as well as application of highly advanced technology to come up with a virtual security information collection mechanism. But if we think strategically, the future belongs to Technology Oriented Policing (TOP) paradigm.
This shift is due to fiver factors. First, increasing rate of urbanization and spatial extensions of cities making it difficult to monitor the public spaces through only human resources. Application of cameras and allied applications at vintage points not only broadens the field of view but also reduces the cost and risks of permanent presence of security officials in any place. Second, automation of surveillance mechanisms reduces variations of human application of law and takes out individual discretions out of the equation. Electronic devices installed on public places ensure certainty of a uniform action against all and sundry. For example issuance of e-challan tickets of traffic violations issued to every violator, regardless of his social status and nuisance in the society and size and brand of the vehicle! Third, early information available to law enforcement agent through integrated technological solution enables them to act in more safe and confidant manner against any potential threat. Every police officer and first responder is equipped with mobile applications on smart phones displaying details of vehicles and persons manifesting suspicious behaviour. Fourth, this invisible security mechanism is not completely run by machines. Smarter people use smart phones better. Police officers running the centralised integrated command, control and communication centres are not only more qualified but also imparted better training to handle complex situations in metropolitan cities. Quality of decision-making and resource allocation also improves by deputing senior and responsible decision makers in the centre rather on the ground for addressing the galleries only. Lastly, by improving the monitoring mechanism through electronic eyes and recording of all events in electronic gazetteers accountability of all police officers and public response increases many folds. Major beneficiary of this electronic evidence are investigators, prosecution departments and courts. It will help them in fixing the responsibility through face recognition capacity and giving a verdict which even defence lawyers cannot question. Thus TOP becomes decisive intervention in the justice sector and all urban population becomes beneficiary.
For cost benefit analysis, the initial high costs would be justified by four indicators, i.e. 1. Reduction in crimes, 2. Reduction in traffic casualties 3. Increase in revenue through zero tolerance on traffic violations and 4. Satisfaction of the public won through transparency, accountability and good governance in civilian security sector. Whereas first three can be measured by comparing results in short time frame but last and most important indicator cannot be ensured without committed response by the law enforcement agencies, in this case, Police.
This public trust is not easy to achieve due to many risks involved in implementing this paradigm of invisible security to develop safe cities in Pakistan. In developed countries civilian security apparatus is designed, mostly, in sync with requirements of urban development, population planning and economic growth framework but it is not happening here. Scarcity of resources, despite positive economic development evidenced by Forbs and Times remains a challenge. The biggest challenge, however, remains the police response to this advanced technology intervention e.g. in Islamabad and Lahore Safe Cities Projects. The way to do business changes dramatically and unless there is huge effort of change management it becomes an unbridgeable chasm. Equally important and in much bigger in scale, is cooperation of public. People are bosses and bosses do not like surprises! Preparing people for even better services require a well thought out strategy and action plan. Here comes role of Media and Courts. Media plays positive role by informing them about developments but also forms public opinion in favour of such fundamental changes which require modification of public behaviour on traffic signals and in law and order situations. Courts have to respond positively for admission of electronic evidence and bar councils are also partner to defend the cases on evidence rather than conventional oral accounts of witnesses, accused and complainants. If these stakeholders do not support the whole scheme of things then they may become spoilers.
Of course there is always a counter narrative and actors who can turn into spoilers if their concerns are not addressed or if they are not taken on board. Most evident question: why cities only? Will it not draw sharper lines between urban and rural areas? One should be mindful that TOP have limitations because it is an expensive solution and scaling it up is not envisaged even in developed cities like London. In some cases TOP is not as flexible and as intelligent as a human resource can be. Other key factor will be the way the system is being utilised. It will be defeating the purpose of invisible security if there are no active response teams of Police to nab the violators of laws or if lawyers tried to question the unquestionable electronic evidence or if courts did not convict the culprits due to other mitigating circumstances. Changing public behaviour and improving road safety are other determinants for positive outcome in country like Pakistan where such interventions are in the offing.
At the moment, there is strong political will to implement TOP in the form of Punjab Police Integrated Command, Control and Communication Centre (PPIC4) project Lahore. Punjab Safe Cities Authority is established to develop PPIC4s for at least five major cities i.e. Multan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi and Lahore. This is biggest intervention by the Chief Minister Punjab to change Police Culture not only in Punjab but also in Pakistan. TOP is the future of Punjab Police.
Media has the key role to shape the public opinion to support the positive steps but Media cannot change the reality on the ground. Real success depends upon a number of factors: phenomenal leadership both at operational and political level; meticulous implementation by Police as well as support extended by other public departments. Public response to this apocalyptic change is yet to be seen. There is a big question for public: are you ready to support this stride towards a change in Police Culture by following the rule of law through technology?
Akbar Nasir Khan : COO Punjab Safe Cities Authority (psca.gop.pk)