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Since 2011 leaders in the Bangladesh Police have been working with PCJ to design and institutionalize a set of indicators that encourage swifter as well as better police investigations. Choosing the best indicator turns out to be complicated - even for such a seemingly simple matter as measuring the “speed” of criminal investigations. One option being considered is an indicator that measures rates of compliance with a standard time limit for investigations; another option is an indicator that tracks incremental changes over time in the average duration of investigations, no matter what the present baseline is. A final option is a measure of the number of cases disposed per quarter by each investigator, whereby high volume implies speed. Each indicator carries risks.
Since 2012 the Supreme Court in Bangladesh has worked with PCJ to appraise how “responsive” the criminal justice system is to female victims of violence. After a joint data collection exercise in the Women and Children’s Repression Tribunals during the summer of 2013, the Supreme Court is now exploring how existing data about the volume and type of conflicts that are brought to the judiciary, the duration and outcome of cases, and the relative role of police, prosecutors, and the tribunals in initiating a case could be used to measure the system’s receptivity to female victims of violence.
Since 2011 leaders in the Bangladesh Police (BP) have been working with the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ) at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) to design and institutionalize a set of indicators that encourage swifter and better police investigations. Their ambition is to expedite investigations, improve the quality of evidence at trial, reassure victims and their families, reduce the duration of pretrial detention, and help reduce backlog in the courts.
Choosing the best indicator turns out to be complicated. Managers in the police need to ensure that the indicator does not discourage investigators from exhaustive efforts to gather reliable evidence, an effort which may prolong investigations. They also want to encourage timelier disposition of each individual case, not just compliance with the minimum or average rate in the service. They also want to make sure that every individual investigator performs well, not just the division as a whole. Whatever measure is chosen, moreover, must fit with new forms of accountability and professional development that are part of the strategic and budgetary plan for the future of policing.
PCJ has worked to develop prototype indicators with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), which conducts specialized investigations for the most serious cases, and sets the practices for investigation across the institution. The work so far has included assessing the likely repercussions of introducing an indicator of speed into routine management operations, and firming up the administrative processes by which data on the duration of investigations is collected.
The first indicator which CID designed and began to use tracks the “number of cases disposed by an investigating officer (IO) every quarter.” The number of cases disposed by each IO is not an indicator of speed, nor collective accomplishment, but rather one of individual productivity. The leadership at CID believes it has to fortify the roles of individuals in the organization before any collective management indicator of speed could have a governance effect. With this concern in mind, the CID leadership often describes how this indicator has helped divisional Senior Superintendents take “ownership” of their geographic unit, manage the allocation of cases among investigating officers, set fresh targets about how many cases CID can afford to take on board from year to year, and be more proactive about “seizing” cases from local police for specialized investigation by CID. While signs of this organizational change were developing, the leadership of CID continued quietly piloted indicators of speed for each division with PCJ. By the end of 2012, the CID leadership decided to adopt a new indicator for divisional management: “the average number of days to complete an investigation in the last month,” disaggregated for specific crime types. The CID decided to use the median, rather than the mean, because they worried that the mean would be skewed in months where officers decided to close very old cases, which may disincentivize attention to long languishing files.
Figure 1, below, demonstrates the median number of days to complete a homicide investigation over a period of time in a single geographical division. The uncertain trend in the data prompted the CID leadership to pay attention to two things:
There are at least three ways the leadership of CID plans to countermand the possibly perverse effects on quality of focusing singularly or excessively on speed:
Since 2012 the Supreme Court in Bangladesh has worked with PCJ to appraise whether the criminal justice system is being responsive or attentive to women victims of violence. The Supreme Court noticed a 70 percent increase in the number of cases heard by the 42 Women and Children Repression Tribunals (WCRT) around the country between 2009 and 2013, which you can see in Figure 1, below:
It wondered whether the rising caseload was a sign of a spike in violence in the communities served by the tribunals or an increase in the perceived value of bringing a crime to the attention of the tribunals. The discussion of this question prompted a data collection exercise in two WCRTs in Dhaka in 2013 that investigated three possibilities:
The findings from this exercise are shaping deliberations among the leadership about the kind of prototype indicators that could help strengthen governance in the justice sector. In March 2014 PCJ facilitated a workshop for the leadership of the Supreme Court in Bangladesh that spawned conversations among police, prosecutors, lawyers, and judges about the opportunities for the criminal justice system in Bangladesh to be more responsive and attentiveto the needs of victims and communities that report violence against women and girls. Participants proposed improvements in three realms of justice that would make the tribunals more ‘responsive,’ particularly for witnesses:
In a brief meeting the day after the workshop, a group of about ten members of the Bangladesh Women Judges Association (BWJA) from various courts around Dhaka expressed support for these ideas. A result of this workshop will be a joint research exercise that PCJ will conduct with the Supreme Court in the spring of 2014 in the 5 Dhaka tribunals. The PCJ will then help the Supreme Court design a set of simple prototype indicators of ‘timeliness,’ ‘friendliness,’ and ‘quality.’ PCJ also hopes to support the leadership of the Supreme Court to develop the conceptual skills to regularly use these indicators in order to encourage actions by judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and police that improve experiences of justice by witnesses.
When it comes to justice reform, everyone from donor agencies to implementers and from academics to government officials, is craving ‘design space' - that is, room for experimentation and innovation in order to learn promising ways to address persistent problems of justice and safety. But the 'space' available for such experimentation is scarce. Genuine experimentation requires admitting that you are uncertain now about what is a good thing to do next. An admission like that can be especially risky in the realm of criminal justice, where the rights and lives of individuals are at stake and the reputation of the legal system is wrapped in claims of certainty and expertise... MORE