Police must rise to meet Future Challenges | Daily News

Police must rise to meet Future Challenges

The Sri Lanka Police recently celebrated their anniversary with great pomp and decorum, with the Police branding themselves as the “Peoples Police”. This is a good initiative. Sri Lanka Police has grown considerably over 155 years. During this challenging journey 3,600 policemen have bravely died on active duty. The nation salutes their sacrifice. In order to improve and be on par with global law enforcement we must identify the services weaknesses and duly rectify the same. The public continues to look at the Police with sentiments of doubt and accuses the service of corruption, clinging to political influence and abuse of vested powers. If we are to improve we must be humble, face reality and most importantly be willing to change.

Sri Lanka Police are assigned the important task of preventing and investigating crimes. They have the responsibility to maintain public order, protect VVIPs and play a crucial role in the security of the State. The role of Police is decisive because the policeman is the first to arrive at the scene of crime. The Police work extensively to maintain discipline and prevent crime, make preventive arrests, conduct investigations and detection, control crowds, control public at festivals, prevent riots by gathering intelligence in advance and manage vehicular traffic etc. The test of Police efficiency is the absence of crime.

All civil Governments hold a criminal justice system to maintain the values of their civilized society. The Judiciary has the Supreme Court at the apex, below the esteemed Supreme Court are the High Courts at state level. The criminal justice system administers the standard of behaviour required to protect individuals in the society. The process of criminal justice operates by apprehending, prosecuting, convicting and sentencing those members of the society who violate the basic rules of social living.

The word Police comes from the Latin word “Politia” which means “Civil Administration”. The word “Politia” goes back to the Greek word “Polis” meaning a city. Therefore the Police can be seen as those involved in the administration of a city. The composition of the Police Force is very clear. The Police Force and the entire criminal justice system were established to maintain the colonial structure established by the British.

There are many kinds of provisions in the Code of Criminal Procedure which empower the Police. Such Provisions mention the powers of the superior officers of the Police to investigate an offence; provisions of arrest during investigation, provisions as to proclamation and attachment, provisions as to search and seizure during investigation, investigation of a cognizable offence, investigation of a non- cognizable offence, Police officer’s power to investigate a cognizable offence, procedure for investigation, submission of report of investigation through superior officer of Police and transmission of such report to the Magistrate.

However, we have sadly witnessed that although the Sri Lanka Police are the guardians of public law and order, they have violated the law– often in public view as highlighted in the media, especially on television. When performing this duty on a daily basis, the Police have both the legal obligation as a defender of the law and the moral obligation to maintain the value of human rights for various reasons.

Today news travels globally in less than a minute via social media platforms. Every Police action in public is always being monitored /captured by someone using a smart phone or somebody’s fixed CCTV. Although the Police Department contributes vitally through its activities within the criminal justice system of Sri Lanka, it has been stigmatized as corrupt and has abused its vested power in different circumstances, and worse tries to deny or cover up the same.

The Policemen and Policewomen must be reminded that they happen to be the most visible representatives of the Government. In an hour of need, danger and crisis when a citizen does not know, what to do and whom to approach, the Police station and cop on duty happen to be the most appropriate and approachable unit. The Police are expected to be the most accessible, interactive and dynamic organisation of any society. Sri Lanka has 605 Police stations across the country. This is a good expansion. News stations have come up in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. This is an excellent move. Don’t forget the Police are a vital stakeholder in reconciliation. All Police Divisions in the Northern Province must strive to enhance Police- public relations. The Sri Lanka Army has definitely done a better task at building bridges of peace and healing. I have travelled extensively in Jaffna and witnessed this good work of the Army. People are still apprehensive of going to Police stations in Northern Province. Top brass at Police Headquarters must periodically visit the Northern Province and begin interactive programmes that produce change which is desired by the people, regarding the Police service. The youth in these areas have witnessed a bloody war and have conflicting dimensions of the Police. Again it’s puzzling why the Police top echelon since 2009 couldn’t realize this. The emergence of the now dormant Awa gangs are a manifestation of these youths post war syndromes.

Majority members of the Police Force represent the rank of Constable and they have limited educational and intellectual prevalence. That’s why their treatment towards the general people is rude and abusive. Those stagnated as Sergeants are the worst as they unknowingly suffer from emotional and self-esteem disorders. These older men in their 50s are rude to the public and their colleagues. Over the last decade I have met Constables who are graduates. This is a good sign. Police can’t provide services to the people properly due to lack of proper training and motivation. Teamwork is found lacking in some branches. Training must include computer literacy, and other elements of people friendly community policing. Salary given to the Police officers particularly to the Constable level is not sufficient. This is cited as a reason for taking bribes, by the general public. Monetary rewards for excellence in duty and bravery must be increased, and given positive publicity in the media.

Some Police stations have no separate room for meeting or conference and sufficient number of vehicles. Lack of vehicles in rural Police stations must be fixed using the available vehicle fleet. Sufficient logistic support in the different Police stations should be provided without any delay. Rural Police stations need better accommodation and mess facilities. Most Constables and Sergeants have no proper criminal behaviour knowledge under criminology, including criminal psychology. This is the sorry state of affairs. English language skill is below standard in the Police service. There are many SGO rank officers - ASP/SP/SSP- themselves who can’t speak Basic English. A true patriot must master English so that he/she may defend our Motherland in any international forum. The public often wonders how advanced training is done, by visiting foreign Police to their Sri Lankan counterparts in specialized subjects like Cybercrime, SOCO- Scene of Crime Officer dealing with forensic evidence etc. Likewise proficiency in Tamil language must increase for officers working in direct contact with the people. Every Police station in Sri Lanka must have the administrative capacity to record complaints in Sinhalese, Tamil and English. It is then that Sri Lanka becomes a real democracy.

A key duty is protect internal security, to prevent and control terrorist activities, breaches of communal harmony, militant activities and other situations affecting Internal Security. How well trained and equipped are the Sri Lanka Police to deal with transnational terrorism which will effect Sri Lanka. There is a black stain on Police when they were not in a position to control the breach of communal harmony. The world witnessed this in July 1983 when violent mobs attacked thousands of Tamil homes and looted them.

The Police did nothing. After the Easter Sunday attacks, innocent Muslims were insulted, randomly assaulted by so-called patriots and some Muslim businesses were attacked. The Police did not act swiftly as expected, but in this instance the Army proved to do a better task and rapidly mobilized its motorbike teams to maintain public security.

Another vital task is to prevent crimes and reduce the opportunities for the commission of crimes through their own preventive action. Sadly today we don’t witness much of preventive action in Sri Lankan law enforcement. Routine Police patrols don’t happen like they ought to – by jeep and motorbikes. Using the fuel crisis is not a valid excuse. The public complain that Police arrive late after an incident or major crime has occurred- one which could have been prevented. This concept of intervention is bad, because firstly it has made the public lose trust in the effectiveness of the Police. Secondly it actually empowers criminals and radicalized extremists that the Police response is not swift and they have ample time to escape and relocate. The increase in underworld rivalry induced shootings in the past three months is a result of the above. The Special Task Force has arrested or shot dead dangerous underworld elements and will strike with dedication when required. They are seen as the only deterrent to the underworld activities. STF must be further empowered with modern weapons and vehicles.

It’s about time that regular force Policemen on duty- even traffic duty- must be armed with a handgun to mitigate any sudden threat. This is a global standard for cops to carry a firearm and have a bulletproof vest in an emergency. Citing costs to maintain a modern armoury is a shame, as public funds have been wasted for unprofitable projects by many Governments over the past three decades.

Effective guidelines should be provided to the Police for preventive and service-oriented functions. The emergency provisions and preventive detention provisions should be meaningfully enhanced to protect human rights. This will give safety to the detainee and the detaining Police station, from future litigation. The Police Inspectorate (SI/IP/CI ranks) is the hardworking backbone of Sri Lanka Police. These officers must be given good welfare facilities and timely promotions. Also Policewomen must be treated with equality, improved career progress, given better facilities and better benefits when they go on maternity leave. Overall Sri Lanka Police has diligent and dedicated cops. But sadly the corrupt and dirty cops tarnish the good image of the service. One way to avoid this is to do full evaluation and vetting before promotions- ie CI rank to ASP so that corrupt cops never get promoted to SGO ranks.

My final thought is for the 600 Policemen who were slaughtered by the LTTE on June 11, 1990. These Policemen of all ethnicities, were from stations in the Eastern Province. They were deceived and made to surrender. These brave cops had fought without fear holding their stations. Those responsible for their deaths are cowards and will live with that guilt. We have not seen a special monument for these valiant men. How did their families cope with such a tragedy, and how did their children study and move forward in life? It’s not late for Sri Lanka to honour these families of the 600 slain Policemen. We all have a duty to be good citizens and support the Police in their duties.

(The writer is author of Target Secured - Police Special Task Force)

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