Proactive policing

Community interaction is essential for modern law enforcement

Proactive policing
Pakistan’s law enforcement infrastructure consists of 35 law enforcement and investigative agencies (LEAs) at the national and sub-national levels. Of these, 27 work under the federal government, six under provincial governments, and two under the administrations in the border regions. Non-police LEAs have a strength of around 200,000, and consist of Rangers, Frontier Cores, Coast Guards and Northern Areas Scouts.

The scale of crime, violence and religious militancy has seen a sharp rise in the last two decades or so, but the capacity of the police and other LEAs has not increased. The absence of commensurate political and administrative will to capacitate and strengthen the police and LEAs has undermined their functions. This demoralization is further exacerbated by unending political interference, corruption, human rights violations by the LEAs themselves, and the loss of over 6,000 law-enforcement personnel in the last 12 years alone. The bloodiest of these years was 2006, with 991 deaths. LEA deaths hit a nine year low in 2014, at 243.

The situation is improving, especially if we look at the dramatic changes in performance in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police under Inspector General Nasir Durrani. But the need of the hour is capacity building and strengthening of law enforcement institutions in Pakistan, and revamping the Police Act of 1861, the Police Rules of 1934, and the Police Order of 2002, as well as the Criminal Procedure Code of Pakistan (CrPC). These initiatives will take time, effort, energy, resources and deep reservoirs of patience, before they can be realized, and we can move towards proactive policing, instead of always reacting to criminal activity or terror attacks. The next phase of this revamp is proactive policing, and extensive community engagement.

Proactive policing, or community policing, is a hallmark of contemporary law enforcement. In a recent talk in Islamabad, Lieutenant Adeel Rana and Detective Elvis Vukelj, both police officers in the New York City Police Department (NYPD), placed a lot of emphasis on always building relationships with the community, as every interaction is an opportunity to make a connection and create an impression. It could be as simple as saying hello to a kid, or as awkward as ticketing someone for a traffic violation. They see the ideas of law enforcement and relationship building as inherently married.
Every interaction is an opportunity to create an impression

In the NYPD, there is a pronounced focus on community interaction and relationship development. Dozens of initiatives and task forces are set up to facilitate this overarching goal. There are ride-along programs to go on patrolling duties with officers, firearm simulators to try and teach respect for weapons, community councils to bring people together, and a citizen’s police academy to have the public experience the rigors of NYPD police training. The various divisions include outreach units for diverse communities, a hate crime task force, a crime prevention division that proactively teaches businesses how to protect their property better, a youth services section that offers a multitude of engagement activities for building relationships, providing alternatives to violence, improving fitness and encouraging athleticism, and promoting child safety. These are all methodologies that enhance community engagement, present a softer side of the police and help curb crime.


Pakistan is finally beginning to see some movement, albeit glacial, towards police and CrPC reforms. A crucial case study is the restructuring and political autonomy of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police, and the impact that has had on both reducing the level of violence in the region and improving community ties. There has been some movement towards proactive policing and alternate dispute resolution mechanisms, such as the Dispute Resolution Councils set up by the police in various areas of the province. However, there must also be a simultaneous push for proactive, community policing. The police should not just be an arm of the state that the public reaches out to once the social contract has been violated through some crime, but a respected, integral, integrated part of the local community they police and serve.

The NYPD may not be perfect, but it tries to engage with the community in an effort to build relationships. This not only breeds trust and faith, but also helps them prevent certain forms of crime before they even take place. It is a win-win mechanism for modern law-enforcement, a mechanism that the now-evolving LEAs in Pakistan should adapt and emulate, keeping in mind local considerations and realities.

The author is a journalist a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad. He has a Master’s degree in strategic communications from Ithaca College, NY

Twitter: @zeesalahuddin