The police force in Andhra Pradesh (AP) state, India, introduced a network-based system (eCOPS) in 2002 to help, among other things, improve the openness with which criminal cases are handled.
The concept of e-governance has made its way with Andhra Pradesh leading the country in the field of technological advances. With the launch of eCOPS in June 2002 and later its state-wide deployment on the web-enabled platform in 2008, Andhra Pradesh became the first state in India to introduce a state-wide online police network to improve the performance of state police units in controlling crime, maintaining law and order, and in administration. The connectivity across each of the police locations helps in saving of time on record maintenance, in minimization of duplicated work and in smoothening of processes to reduce the workload of the A.P. police while making it a more friendly organization with better output. What is more of an achievement in equipping the police force to access and deploy data anywhere, anytime and analyse them on real time basis is the extremely cost effective manner in which the process got developed and the wise use of technology and existing infrastructure that kept the maintenance expenses minimum. The fact that the ventures of AP Police have become an inspiration in e-governance has been confirmed by the recent initiatives of the police forces of Karnataka and West Bengal, who have come a good deal forward on a similar road, completing some pilot projects. Other state governments have also planned developments in this direction. E-governance is touted by many as the next great Indian revolution. Beyond the hype, however, is a growing movement in India and other Asian countries to experiment with governance through Internet. Governments of all political persuasions will feel the pressure to adapt their machinery to advances in ICT. The e-government environment meaning- less red tape, more transparent regulations, easier interactions-is where all will need to go and A P Police, through visionary steps and incessant work at all levels, have managed to inculcate the “why” of IT in the minds of the police force all over the state.
In India, if a crime is committed, the victim (or a witness) must go to the police station where they live, and report the crime which is then said to be registered. The duty officer in the station fills in a First Information Report (FIR): a statement of details as recalled by the victim. Previously, this has been a paper-based process, and paper records were easily manipulated or lost. With the eCOPS system, a victim could go to any police station (not just their local one) and the duty officer can register the crime direct onto the system. eCOPS' contribution to transparency would arise from that fact that, once a case has been registered on the system server database it cannot easily be changed. The person who registered the case could also get access to case details and progress at any point, either by going to any police station and requesting an officer to access their case on eCOPS, or by accessing their case details online via the AP Police Web site using an FIR code number that is issued at the time of registration. Available case details would include the FIR, actions taken, actions pending, other crime details, etc. The victim could lodge a complaint if they see from accessing case details that the case has not been registered properly, or that there has been no progress made on the case since it was last accessed. Finally, senior officers in the police service could also use eCOPS to monitor case details and progress. All of this affects the transparency of case handling, and the accountability of police officers. The system is still at a relatively formative stage. At present, it only covers a limited number of functions, and only four pilot locations in the state. There are planned expansions to deal with mobile...