Could we hope for a crime free society?

Police Day was observed yesterday with nostalgic memories of yesteryear
By B.A.Jeyanathan

The much maligned Police service has been at the receiving end of more critical press than any other Government Department had received in the recent past. The Police service has been identified as the most corrupt among the Government departments. I do not fully endorse this conclusion though, due to inefficiency and servility to political masters by the senior officers and corruption at all levels the department has had to earn this tag.

The Police Service was established by the British in the second half of the 19th century (1866). Though it has faced many challenges periodically in the forms of riots, communal violence, insurgencies, terrorism, trade union protests, underworld criminal upsurges, political interference etc., it has fared creditably well, a few debacles notwithstanding.

Political control

In the year 1972 the Constitution was changed enabling political masters to control and direct the Police service. The political parties which came into power made use of this Constitution to target the Senior Officers, by appointing IGPs of their choice, promoting Deputies, etc. Every Government in power has made use of the Police Service to achieve their political agendas thereby depriving the society the fundamental needs of the community, expected from a law enforcement agency.

Police Chief N.K. Ilangakoon and his wife were the chief guests at yesterday’s Police Day celebrations at the Police Park in Bambalapitiya. Pic by Saman Kariyawasam

In the early period of formation and expansion of the service, the strength was dominated by British officers and gradually Ceylonese of all ethnicities were recruited, mostly to the lower ranks. With the gaining of independence, the increase in population, the domination of British Officers holding higher positions ceased and Sir Richard Aluvihare was installed as the first Ceylonese Inspector General of Police in 1947 just prior to Independence.

Recruitment levels

Recruitment has been at three levels, Police Constables, Probationary Sub Inspectors (P/SI), and Probationary Assistant Superintendents (P/ASP). Educational qualifications for different ranks were laid down. Minimum qualification to join as a Police Constable today is the GCE O/L, GCE A/L for Sub Inspectors and a Degree qualification to join as a Probationary ASP. The other ranks prevalent in the service are ranks earned by promotions based on Governmental and Departmental rules and regulations.

Mr. Merril Gunaratne, retired senior DIG, a product of Peradeniya University, who had an illustrious career in the Police Department, had in a recent article in the newspapers, expressed his candid opinion about the graduates being recruited to the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police directly. The Police Department consists mainly of “Rankers”, those who either joined the service as Constables or Sub-Inspectors.

The Inspectorate

The constabulary is the main base of the Police Department. The heart of the service is the Inspectorate. They are not the backbone of the service, as many a soul exists without a backbone, but without a heart no soul exists. It is the Inspectorate who interacts with the superiors, subordinates and their counterparts. Even in the law books of our country, it is the Inspectorate or the Officer in Charge of the Police Station who is recognized as the primary Law Enforcement Officer. In the days gone by sportsmen and applicants from good families whether affluent or not, joined the Police Service as Sub-Inspectors and they were a pride to the service.

Probationary Assistant Superintendent of Police

The British, who established the Police Service, introduced a system of recruiting qualified applicants directly as probationary Assistant Superintendent of Police. Graduates were interviewed, selected and trained. The British in their wisdom did not reruit them as Assistant Superintendents of Police as they would not have had any experience in Police work

Unjust ruling

Alas, in the year 1976 due to misrepresentations to the public administration by the hierarchy of the Police Department, who were all graduates, the then Secretary to the Public Administration, overruled a determination by the then Secretary of Defence to the effect that the rankers should be given the advantage of three years (probationary period) and the distinct rank of probationary Assistant Superintendent of Police should continue. With this ruling every graduate who joined the Police Department thereafter was bestowed the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police from the date he or she stepped into the training school for training.

From about the year 1980 onwards, the Police Department had been headed by graduates who have come to that position without a semblance of experience in investigation into even cases of minor offence,, prosecuting in any case, or facing the cross examination of leading lawyers by giving evidence in a Court of Law. Their only qualification was their degree.

The Army Academy and the Police Academy

Speaking of the Kotalawala Defence Academy, the Army established in the Eighties had leap frogged and today it is affiliated to a University where their degree is recognized by this University. Speaking of the Police Academy, many years ago a vast extent of land was acquired and the name of the world’s first woman Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike was given to this Academy. The name board and a fence around the boundary of this property is all that remains and this land is now a grazing ground for the cattle in the area. Recently it had been taken over by the Army.

Once again the Police Department is speaking of a Police Academy; I hope that they are serious about establishing this Academy.

The Police Department has to take a serious view of this if they really mean to serve the public through their Officers in a professional manner. Education is a must for each and everyone in the Department.

Education and experience

In appointing and promoting Police Officers to higher ranks, of and above the rank of Assistant Superintendents of Police, consideration must be given to both education and experience. All graduates who wish to join the Police service should be admitted to the Police academy bestowing them the rank of an Inspector.

By this procedure the Police service will produce officers of higher ranks with both education and experience to serve the community to maintain law and order for the citizens to live in peace and harmony in a crime free society.

The writer is Dy.Inspector General of Police, SLP (Rtd.)

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