‘Digital’ the buzzword for police in Covid-19 era
In March, when the Capital went into shutdown mode to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), Delhi Police suddenly found itself enforcing not just law and order, but also lockdown restrictions, social distancing norms, and the wearing of masks, while trying to ensure its own personnel did not fall prey to the raging virus.
It turned, tentatively, to technology to navigate the unknown territory.
Six months on, “digital” is the buzzword in Delhi Police. What started with Zoom calls for law-and-order meetings and WhatsApp for sending notices and summons to minimize touch and physical contact, has had a transformative effect on the Capital’s police, with many of its legacy processes and procedures going online.
The most significant of them is the replacement of the traditional beat book (a paper diary where a beat officer kept all information and data about his beat) with the e-beat book -- a mobile application, integrated with the existing online data systems such as Zipnet, Dossier, CCTNS (the Crime and Criminal Tracking Networks and Systems), and ICJS (Interoperable Criminal Justice System) that aligns various pillars of the criminal justice system such as e-courts and e-prisons databases. The e- beat book will allow a beat officer to carry out a host of tasks remotely.
“The beat is the primary unit of policing, and the e-beat book will empower the beat officer like never before. He can now access the criminal record of a suspect on the spot, without having to take him to the police station. This new tool has face recognition software and all a beat officer needs to do is click his picture and search the database,” said SN Shrivastava, commissioner of Delhi Police. “It will help detect, map and prevent crime more effectively.”
According to the latest National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB) report, overall crime in Delhi went up by 20 percent in 2019, compared to the previous year, including crimes against women.
The e-beat book, says Prem Nath, Additional CP, technology and cybercrime, will help record the crime, the criminal, and other relevant data for the beat; provide real-time location of all 1,752 beat officers in the city; and allow online tasks to be allocated to them; apart from enabling them to file various verification reports online.
“The moment you fill a form for a tenant or servant verification online, it will come to the beat constable, who can file his report on e-beat book,” said Nath. Delhi Police have rolled out the e-beat book initiative in all districts, having distributed new mobile devices among all beat officers
Many of Delhi Police’s registers and diaries -- a legacy of the Raj – also went digital in June. Take for example “roznamcha” (police diary), which is a record of all happenings at a police station, including all the registered FIRs, complaints, arrests, attendance, among other things. It is now digital. Similarly, the Police Control Room ( PCR) register, which maintains the record of all information regarding distress calls marked to that police station as well as complaints and missing person registers, have gone online.
“All of this is now being done in digital format on CCTNS, a centralised integrated system of the Union home ministry. During the pandemic, we started sending even court files online,” said Rajan Bhagat, a retired DCP of Delhi Police who is now a consultant in-charge of technology projects.
Delhi Police have also introduced an Integrated Complaint Management System (ICMS), which allows people to get a complaint number and track the status of their complaint. “This is to ensure that the public grievance redressal is faster, more transparent, accountable and paperless,” said Shrivastava.
Delhi Police, he adds, will soon start online delivery of many other citizen services such as permissions for processions, events, rallies, licensing NOCs, among others. “We will do so through our Tatpar app, where we have amalgamated all citizen services,” said Shrivastava.
Most of these digital procedures Delhi Police adopted during the pandemic -- sending summons and bailable warrants on WhatsApp, video conferencing for meetings, virtual examination of witnesses, interrogation of accused, and interactions with victims -- will continue to be an integral part of policing in the Capital, says Shrivastava.
“Some of these digital tools have turned out to be very effective, ensuring that the police personnel spend more time on crime prevention duties than travelling to deliver documents,” he said. “Video conferencing has allowed me to personally intervene in many cases. I take both complainants and concerned police officers on the call. We will continue to use it.”
Retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Prakash Singh, who served as the chief of Uttar Pradesh and Assam police in 1991-1993 and whose public interest litigation led to the SC passing landmark police reforms in 2006, said, “The pandemic made us look at ways of living/working, we had not thought before. Delhi Police seem to have turned a challenge into an opportunity. Digitisation is the need of the hour. I am not aware about the concept of e-beat book but if what you have said is true then it looks promising. Others should also replicate it. It is a step forwards towards modernisation. A general diary, which is a register that documents every thing at the police station is a nuisance. It came into being because of the mistrust of the police when it was started. It was unnecessary paper work. Moving to virtual summon/interrogation, granting permission online is the best solution today this but one must not forget the importance of meeting complainants in person.”