Thana Culture is a negative connotation which is used to indicate the non-friendly attitude of the police station (Thana) staff towards the general public. Following notions form part of that perceived notorious Thana culture:
Rude behaviour by the police station staff
Misuse of power
It is for these reasons that sensible or educated persons do not like to go to the police stations for the redressal of even their genuine grievances.
There are two major complaints against the police which are rude behaviour on the part of the police officials dealing with the visitors and non-registration of first information report (FIR) particularly in the cases of crime against property which include dacoity, robbery, snatching, theft and all other street crimes involving unknown accused persons.
Though there can be no justification for bad behaviour and callous attitude of police officials, there are certain factors which contribute to the malaise. These factors are:
Low police to population ratio
Higher level of deviance
Rise in crime rate
Loopholes in the criminal justice system
Greater workload for police
Lack of social security system for the poor and the unemployed
Lack of focus on crime-prevention strategies
Lack of rehabilitation services for the offenders
Summarizing the factors narrated above, it can be stated that higher crime rate implies greater workload for the police. Greater workload means absence of leisure time available to the police officials, and it leads to frustration among them. This lies at the heart of the concept of Thana culture. If we are able to decrease the workload of police, we would be able to change the Thana culture.
Police Rules, 1934, states that there should be one police personnel to look after the legitimate interests of 450 citizens whereas in Punjab, this ratio is low as there is one police personnel to police 563 persons, according to the figures of 2017.
Apart from low police-to-population ratio, the level of deviance has increased due to certain factors which make the existing police force insufficient to cater to the policing needs of ever-increasing population. Rise in crime rate can be attributed to poor socioeconomic conditions, inflation, unemployment, illiteracy, lack of recreational activities and loopholes in the criminal justice system.
Unlike the other developed countries, our social security systems are not that much robust, though the current government has taken the initiatives of health insurance and Ehsaas programmes which are steps in the right direction.
In order to curb crime, we adopt traditional criminal justice strategies which involve collaboration of other departments as well; for example, prosecution, courts and prisons. It is established through many case studies of different countries that crime cannot be controlled through traditional criminal justice system approach. It is for the reason that all the components of criminal justice system are overburdened, hence ineffective.
Another factor that renders the criminal justice system ineffective is that an offender who commits crime against property, such as snatching, robbery, dacoity and burglary, hardly spends a few weeks in prison because the affected citizens are more interested in the recovery of the valuables lost or stolen than in the conviction of the offenders for the following reasons:
Complainants do not want to face criminals in the courts — fear of criminals
Adjournments of cases
Complainants have to spare their time in order to follow their cases
Many efforts have been made by the police leadership to reverse the Thana culture, and we must admit that they have been proved successful to a large extent; nonetheless, there remains a room for improvement.
One such intervention is incorporation of technology in the policing domain. Certain processes relating to public service have been automated and such services are available at Khidmat Marakiz in the Punjab province. These service centres have been established to bypass the role of police stations in the provision of services such as registration of missing documents and articles, and issuing character verification certificates, etc. Moreover, installation of CCTV cameras in police stations has proved helpful in improving the conduct of the police officials and curbing the practices of torture and illegal detention. Recently, it has been decided that body cameras should be made part of the uniform of field officers, which is a very good step.
In order to root out the deep-rooted notion of Thana culture from the mind of the general public, following steps are recommended:
Closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras should be installed in all the major cities of Pakistan and the video surveillance of the cities on the pattern of Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) should be ensured. This would help in successful detection of the criminal cases and effective prosecution of the cases in courts because of the scientific evidence available in the form of video footages. This would ensure conviction of the offenders leaving crime rate under control.
A very strict internal accountability mechanism is also in place to hold the police officers accountable. Apart from accountability mechanism, it is desired that moral training of the police officers should be focused. Training branch of the Punjab Police has devised curricula relating to the moral aspect of training, particularly on the following subjects:
Significance of knowledge in life
Formation of character
Etiquettes and manners
Rewards of public service delivery
This is a very good example to be followed by the police training branches of other provinces.
A criminal is not a born criminal. It is interplay of different social, psychological and economic factors that lead to criminal tendencies. Following factors can be quoted as examples:
Unemployment, lack of opportunities for earning
Lack of informal social control
In view of what is stated above, there is a dire need to focus on the potential offenders who may commit crime in future. For example, children of broken marriages and school dropouts are the target offenders. Modern crime- prevention strategies focus on these potential offenders to keep them away from the criminal activities. These crime-prevention strategies include:
Social security networks for the unemployed and the poor
Skill development programmes for the dropouts and the unemployed
Rehabilitation services for the young offenders and making them responsible citizens again.
According to an estimate, a big chunk of crime is committed by habitual offenders. Prison reforms are the need of the hour to rehabilitate the offenders and prevent the tendencies of recidivism among the offenders.
To conclude, it can be stated that the criminal justice system alone cannot handle the burden of deviance and crime in society. Parents, teachers, schools, neighbourhood and the peer should come forward to shoulder the responsibility of preventing criminal tendencies among the youth. In this way, we can successfully decrease the load on the criminal justice system. Role of the police and the criminal justice system come in the end to put the incorrigible offenders behind the bars. If the crime rate is under control, and deviance is not the norm but an exception, then Thana culture would definitely improve because Sir Robert Peel had once said: “Police are the public, and the public are the police.”