Police and the public
We have written
extensively on the Police Department in these columns, offering
praise where praise is due whilst also being critical of
misdemeanours and shortcomings of the Department. We are again
compelled to revive the subject of the Police in view of a
remark made by IGP Jayantha Wickremaratne that public confidence
in the police was at a low ebb.
Speaking at a function the Police Chief said “there is no
point in denying the fact that the people have lost confidence
in the law enforcement due to negligence on our part”. He
specially referred to the complaint that the police were slow to
respond to calls on the Emergency Hotline 119 despite the wide
publicity given to this facility.
The remark also comes in the wake of serious incidents of
rape and child molestation brought against two police officers.
This frank admission by the Police Chief on the shortcomings of
his Department is unprecedented and hopefully would mark the
beginning in the cleaning of the Augean stables.
The IGP’s message it is hoped would seep down to the rank and
file in the Department leading to a radical transformation of
the Police Department. True, the role of the Police has
undergone a radical change over the years, particularly over the
past two decades. The Police Department in recent times has been
playing a major role in combating terrorism.
The Department which was earlier essentially a law
enforcement arm has undergone a sea of change with the advent of
the terrorist problem. Today it has to handle local crime while
addressing national security concerns. The members of the Police
and its elite arm the STF sacrifice their lives in the theatre
of war and are also subjected to the tensions experienced by the
members of the Security Forces.
Thus the Police have to undertake the chief mission of
combating local crime and affording protection to the civilian
population while having an eye on security matters. This has
been brought about due to prevailing exigencies. One has also to
concede that the Police Department too had been sucked into the
vortex of the free wheeling culture that all State institutions
and enterprises were subject to with the advent of
liberalisation heralded by the open economy.
The recent ranking of the Police Force among the leading
Government institutions for bribery certainly does not bring
credit to a force which was held in awe and respect not so long
ago. The politicisation of the force too has had its downside
over the years which is another reason for its gradual loss of
esteem among the public.
This is by no means an indictment of the Police Force as a
whole. There are still dedicated officers who are committed to
the lofty principles of the Police Force as a law enforcement
body dedicated to serve the public. Some of the acts of
gallantry which regularly appear in the Peoples’ Forums in the
newspapers bear this out in ample measure.
What has to be done by the IGP is to build on this act of
goodwill to elevate the police Department to the position it
once enjoyed. He should take measures to bring respect to the
uniform which alas has taken a nosedive in recent times.
Deterrent punishment should be meted out to those who have
strayed and brought disgrace to the Police Department. All
measures should be taken to weed out the undesirables who had
sullied the name of the Department. Such disciplinary action
should receive the widest publicity so that it would not only
help hound out the bad eggs but also restore public confidence
in the force.
Above all the Police Department should be made to function
essentially as a civilian law enforcement unit if it is to be
brought closer to the public.
The Police cannot function efficiently sans public
cooperation. In this respect the Department should promote more
public relations exercises without confining these to Avurudhu
events so that this bond would be further cemented.
The IGP’s decision to engage academic institutions to suggest
improvements to the Police Department is also a move in the
This, while providing inputs to enable the Police Department
to function as a civilian unit could also suggest areas of
improvement to the Department and areas of interaction with the