Transforming the Police | Daily News

Transforming the Police

The proposal to establish a Police and Crimes University to better equip the police to deal with the new trends in crime and other challenges is to be welcomed. Speaking at the 152th Police Day celebrations, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that they hope to present a Cabinet paper shortly to set up a police and crimes university. He said the police are today confronted with new challenges when fighting crime, with the advancement in technology. Now there are drug mafia networks and cyber-crimes which the police have to deal with. “We were able to understand the kind of disturbances that social media and new technology can cause to law and order in a country,” the Premier noted.

Indeed, crime today has taken on a new dimension. It is no longer straight forward as in the past, like in the case of a plain shooting or stabbing. Sophisticated methods are being used to commit grave crime that defies detection. The same is true of white-collar crime. The recent investigations into some of the crooked financial deals under the Rajapaksa regime reveal to what degree the web of intrigue had been spun which can stump even the best of detectives. The need has therefore arisen for the police to be on the money to unravel the deep layers of deceit and expose the culprits. A Police University would certainly enable the investigators to arm themselves with the special skills needed to tackle white-collar crime that is becoming widespread today, both in state institutions and the corporate sector. The Inland Revenue scam where the suspects fleeced the state for over a billion rupees over several years is a case in point.

As mentioned by the Premier, there is also the case of cyber-crime which is becoming widespread and also the use of Facebook to spread communal strife, as revealed in connection with the recent incidents in Kandy. The police should be geared to handle these challenges through the setting up special branches in the service staffed with specially qualified personnel. There was a time when brawn superseded the brain when recruitments were done to the police. However with the change in times there is a need to make the necessary adjustments in the selection criteria and those with intellectual ability absorbed to the service to deal with the new challenges.

The Premier, in his speech, also commended the service of the police under the present IGP, amidst the most trying circumstances, especially in its success at getting the crime rate down by 35% and the rate of solved cases up by 20%. “The police is not praised no matter how hard they work”, he added.

Certainly there are bad eggs in any service and the police is no exception. Public criticism of the police could be justified in certain instances, especially in relation to custodial deaths. But by and large the police service has done commendably in the execution of its duties in recent times, going by the high profile arrests and detections made, particularly the seizure of massive hauls of narcotics, which rightly drew the praise of the Premier. The service was fittingly rewarded with salary increases for all grades. It is important that police personnel be made a contended lot due to the nature of their duties that is fraught with danger and risk. There were police officers who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty in recent times, when confronting dangerous criminals.

Not just the officers themselves, the welfare of their families too should receive the highest consideration of the government. Most often when police officers are subject to transfers, this affect the schooling of their offspring. During the war, the children of soldiers received the special privilege of getting themselves admitted to good schools. It is not known if this concession was extended to the police as well. If not, the State should look into this matter and come up with a solution.

There is also the need to build police-public relationship to a satisfactory level. Admittedly, the police have not entirely endeared themselves to the public due to certain incidents in recent times, particular the Embilipitiya brawl that resulted in the death of a youth. Programmes of interaction should be launched by the IGP such as sports events and other recreational activity involving the police and the public. Above all the police should be transformed into an essentially civilian force. We say this because during the war years recruitments were done to the police dispensing with established criteria due to lack of manpower. In the process undesirables too found their way into the service, as in the case with the Tri-Forces. Perhaps it is these elements who are responsible for some of the violent incidents that are reported. There is no denying that the police too, like the members of the Armed Forces, became brutalized with the intensity of the war and some of their members carry these scars to the present day.

Like the Premier said, the police should make a review of its performance and move forward rectifying all its shortcomings. It should re-evaluate where it had gained and where it had gone wrong.

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