J. J. Baloch
The criminal investigation needs sophistication in identifying, collecting, preserving and analysing valuable material evidence. As the ill luck would have it, our investigations still rely on traditional methods of evidence collection and badly lack application of scientific method. Our police investigations still depend on what the complainant and the planted witnesses of the case tell our detectives.
Our First Information Report is big misnomer which is very confusing and misguiding document as it takes investigation process in reverse by going from criminal to crime scene with the help of oral statements of planted witnesses in most of the cases. However, this runs counter to modern methods which go from crime scene to criminal relying on material evidence.
When the incident of crime takes place, a victim can approach police station of the area for registration of his complaint and police register First Information Report and start investigations. The investigation is defined as the process of collection of evidence. Evidence is of two major types: Oral or verbal meaning witness statements and Material, signifying all material such as empties of the bullet or ballistic, any document, blood, hair, tyres marks, foot tracks, fingerprints or anything of the same ilk which can be collected from the crime scene- a place where crime occurs. The oral evidence is very weak because if the statements of the witnesses do not tally one another, the case is lost and the accused get benefited and it often happens. Good and reliable evidence is the forensic or material evidence collected from the crime scene and which does not depend on anyone’s statement but on the expert opinion which is highly dependable, admissible and advisable for all detectives in the interest of carrying out quality investigations which can promise proper prosecution and which can ensure satisfactory convictions in the courts of law.
Unfortunately in our country, Pakistan, due to lack of forensic facilities and expertise most of our detectives rely heavily on the version of First Information Reports which limits the scope of investigations by nominations of the accused persons. So they start their investigations confirming whether the nominated accused is actual culprits or not. If they are actual criminals, their lawyers make very tricky cross questions with the witnesses of the incident in the trial court and in many cases the chances of accused of going unpunished highly increase. This happens because of faulty investigations based on weak evidence which limits justice and fairly by going from criminal to crime scene approach.
On the contrary, forensic or material evidence based on the scrutiny of the crime scene applying scientific methods and expert opinion on the material evidence so secured from the scene of the crime can be helpful in achieving better conviction rates and hence have a greater likelihood of serving as a stronger deterrence to crime and criminality. The understanding, securing, sketching, filming, photographing and collecting materials from the scene of the crime to be used and analysed as an evidence for re-construing the crime happening by connecting the chain of materials from different angles, making it sensible, logical and acceptable to human mind exclusively through scientific methods. Such criminal investigations do not require nominations in First Information Reports but start detecting and tracing the original culprits through reliable methods and seek accurate implications by going through crime scene to the criminal.
In Pakistan, however, it was a practice not to incorporate evidence in the FIR some decades earlier. Same is true in developed countries where policing and investigations are carried out in a professional and evidence-based ways. If an incident of Robbery takes place. A short FIR contains only the basic information of incident. For example, “The complainant Aslam has reported that at 11; 05 pm two unknown masked and armed with pistols motorcyclists forcibly stopped me near peacock crossing adjacent to the shopping mall and snatched my cell phone and purse.” This shows everything that is required to define crime and criminal incident i.e. nature of crime-robbery, time and place of incident, and who did what with whom and why? On this police can start investigations and trace the case.
However, nowadays FIRs are not that simple but rather contain unnecessary details such as why complainant was there in the place of incident, what else he was carrying, what words the accused spoke to him, whether the street lights were on or off, did the accused told the reason of snatching, did they introduced themselves as Khalid and Munir and acquainted Aslam about home address and their old problems with him. Very sadly our FIRs contain everything unnecessary one can imagine which can hardly leave any room for Investigator to reach the original story, resulting in the increase in pendency and untraced cases.
Therefore, Sind police must focus on the culture of material evidence and develop crime scene science so that no criminal manages to go scot free. In the wake of this, Sind Police has, very recently, began to adopt in letter and spirit the scientific modalities of managing crime scene. Though a paradigm shift in policing methodologies in Sind, yet this has to go a long way in attaining maturity and sophistication. Let us explain how crime scene management works.
The Crime Scene Management covers almost all main aspects of crime scene management activity of crime scene investigators. I had privilege and credit to draft these Standard Operating Procedures on Crime scene management for Sind Police in 2010 and these procedures have been adopted without any addition or deletion. Let us describe these crime scene procedures.
These crime scene procedures are divided into four major aspects of crime scene management and are designed to devise different roles and to fix responsibilities of the police officers who are one way or the other related to the crime scene management. The four major aspects include information, preparation, protection of crime scene and search and preservation of evidence.
According to the first procedure of information, as laid down in Standard Operating Procedures, “Station House Officer (SHO) or duty officer, or patrol officer or finally Head Muharir, “will be responsible for informing the forensic division Sind police” for sending its crime scene unit at the crime scene. Duty Officer In-charge at Forensic Division will make the proper entry in his daily register mentioning therein all particulars and details containing the name of informing the officer, time of information, nature of the crime and also departure and arrival of crime scene staff.
The procedure of ‘preparation’ for managing crime scene places much of responsibility on the Forensic Division. “The crime scene manager” available at Forensic Division “will be responsible” for making all arrangements necessary for search, collection, role assignment on the spot if necessary, legal ramifications, communication with supplementary services such as medical examiner and prosecutor, coordination with the eyewitnesses of the crime scene and packing and transportation of evidence materials.
At present such a bigger role for Forensic Division appears to be idealistic to many police officers who are working in the field and who are not at all willing to share their authority with any specialised unit at whatsoever cost is, indeed, a big stumbling block in the implementation of such procedures of Crime Scene. However, it is expedient to establish the active forensic units with the full-fledged crime scene unit facility at the zonal level both in Karachi as well as interior Sindh so that time and resources could be saved and Standard Operating Procedures of Crime Scene would implement with less resistance.
Regarding the third procedure of the protection of crime scene, the document in point states: “The responsibility of protecting and securing crime scene lies with SHO (Station House Officer) and his concerned police station, which is capable of making arrangements for protecting and securing the crime scene”. It further establishes: “the person responsible should take control aggressively and close access to everything to the crime scene. He/She should deny access to anyone and to anything towards the crime scene”.
Only authorised persons can enter the crime scene with the permission of Crime Scene manager/ protector. It does not mean any high official can enter the Crime Scene without recording appropriate reasons and justifications and his or her entry and exit will be fully recorded together with the specific purpose of his or her entry.
In addition to this, the SHO who is responsible for the protection of crime scene as per procedures would also gauge the purity of Crime Scene and determine the level of its contamination when he or she arrives and takes the charge of the Crime Scene. If the Crime Scene initially appears to have been spoiled, the SHO will try to obtain the information relating to the original conditions of the Crime Scene by identifying, removing and separating the witnesses from the Crime Scene.
The very significant aspect of Crime Scene Evidence protection as laid down in this procedure is the way Crime Scene is to be recorded or got recorded by Crime Scene Investigators. There are three major methods of recording the crime scene. They include photography, sketch, and notes. Everyone attending the crime scene and has some role there is required to take extensive and detailed notes of everything present at the crime scene and every activity taking places at the moment he or she arrives the crime scene. No one attending crime scene is supposed to rely on memory. Such notes can offer potential evidence. It is advised apart from procedures that we do not only have to preserve the crime scene but we have also to be able to prove that we did so.
The fourth and the last procedure reads: “The responsibility of crime scene search lies with the local investigating officer. He/she will be responsible for completing all legal requirements, for ensuring proper packing of evidence from the crime scene, for keeping track of evidence, and for ensuring timely collection of materials and expert reports/opinions. He/she is bound to maintain search and evidence log.”
Moreover, investigating officer has also been rendered responsible under this procedure to prepare the narrative description of the crime scene (include written notes, audio tape and video tape), depict crime scene photographically, and through sketch with a view to documenting the relationship of items, locations and distances at the scene. At the end he/she should conduct the final survey and release the scene, containing time and date of release together with who released the same scene to whom.
After years of archaic policing, Sindh Police’s adoption of Crime Scene Management procedures for obtaining a reliable material evidence is, beyond any doubt, a timely step in a right direction which can claim a paradigm shift in the ways we have been policing and policed during last sixty years or more. However, the success of this little effort would largely depend on the level of seriousness with which our police implement and adopt it.
The Writer is a law enforcement/Policing Educator and a Novelist…