It is very heartening that the Government has at last accepted the much-desired concept of Community Policing (CP).  This idea is now institutionalised with the appointment of a State Minister to handle the subject. The pressure on the Government this time around perhaps follows from the question raised by the media: Why is this recurring [...]

Sunday Times 2

Eureka! Community Policing in Lanka


It is very heartening that the Government has at last accepted the much-desired concept of Community Policing (CP).  This idea is now institutionalised with the appointment of a State Minister to handle the subject.

The pressure on the Government this time around perhaps follows from the question raised by the media: Why is this recurring violence on the people by the Police?  The familiar ‘stomping’ incident and much more have brought on this media question. There was no adequate reply by the Police Media Spokesman.  Comments are forthcoming today, as the question has been there for over several decades.

The CP initiative is a reflection on law and order situation today. Is this a veiled suggestion of an underlying cover for regime policing, different from CP in the true sense?  The idea of CP emerges out of a perception that current policing is one of regime policing rather than CP. Nonetheless, community policing can have no meaning if it is to echo on regime policing. Many countries are grappling with this problem — when is it Regime Policing? when is it Community Policing? Their puzzle befuddles, here too.

Community Policing is a term with direct and immediate relevance to the people. But the reality is that CP is necessarily dependent on the Criminal Justice System (CJS). If CP is to go through the several CJS agencies, the results of CJS to the community will be gained only in an incidental manner. The impediments of the CJS as it is now functioning, are explained below.

Effective policing can only come from effective, direct, and immediate action, from the CJS. Delay and malfunction of the CJS on the other hand can only reduce the effectiveness of CP. Laws delay in CJS is not helpful to CP. This term, CP, is now being used to launder failure of the CJS system from delay. For, the problem for CP from CJS is more than mere inefficiency. This is all the more so when the laws delay is driven by money incentives. Postponement of cases, in this trend, is delay washed clean. The manifold ramifications in this process can barely be discussed here due to space restrictions.

It is reported that there are more than 700,000 cases pending in courts. With the Prosecution (AG) there are more than 8,000 cases pending indictment. The Police only contribute to this. The Prisons add to this problem in their own brutal way of correction and rehabilitation! Together, the CJS does not permit any impelling progress for CP in the process. Community Policing, now proposed, would have to contend with these dysfunctions of the order.

Community Policing, likewise, begs for justice, morality and public order. For justice, morality and public order are what CP can best serve. CP, bedraggled by money, power and finance, face the opposite effect of undermining law and order. Laws delay plainly aggravates law and order. This is a matter of common community experience. As a direct result of this, more offences and more serious crimes are added to the numbers. Order is the casualty. The law is thus undermined by ‘money, power and finance’ in the process.

Thus, the Bail Act which provides for bail as the rule, which incurs no expense, is changed, in effect, by making ‘remand’ the regular occurrence with the money and expenses involved. This has been discussed before. The law is replete with many other examples of such tenor and tone brought on by these untoward impulses. Community policing has little space then to waddle in this mire. Regime policing enjoys this bog.

It may be that the very recent initiative for CP, a few days ago, had an eye to the wordings of the Constitution, to think that the idea of CP may help policing be made more democratic and socialist, in terms of the Constitution. The idea is good but does not cover further ground. For, it is necessary that this very proposal may extend to the CJS itself which is barely democratic, less socialist.

The CJS is elitist and not for the people.  The CJS laws are made by law professionals even to the extent of excluding the law of the people, such as conciliation, mediation, compounding and with the AJL 1973. Thus, lawmaking and processing in courts are far removed from the community. Its clamour for community justice, for morality and public order, for community courts, for community prosecution, for community correction, and for CP to have even a bleak chance of carrying through these ideals, has become a cry too far. Monopoly runs the order, when even laws that suit the people directly, as conciliation and compounding of cases were opposed by the courts. Courts argued that these instances were a usurpation of judicial power. In fact, monopoly considerations drove the opposition by courts to peoples’ powers.   A particular judicial training does not reform the monopoly, as when village elders, Buddhist priests etc. can serve better.

It is also clear that the new understanding of CP, by the authorities, lacks awareness of the fact that the concept of CP, in it, is redundant. For, the Police and the Community are just one as Sir Robert Peel said in 1829, that Police are the People and the People are the Police. Is it necessary then that this simple view in 1829 has to be restated in 2021? Reiteration and repetition of CP over 70 years has not helped to recognise this simple fact. Failure is not in the comprehension of this plain fact but rather in the disregard of this reality. Previous Commissions and Committees since 1948, and repeatedly since, paid no attention to this fundamental fact. Instead, the interests of these Commissions only touched around many other issues, making a raft of recommendations thereby. Together or consequently, time after time, they yielded little result.

Today this opportunity for CP may yet be missed for similar superficial reasons.  CP needs to be intelligently taken into account. CP may take a modest line in limited area of work, but promising in expectation. CP can be limited to the minor cases and disputes that lead to more offences and more serious crimes.  Details of CP are simple to deal with.  Reducing CP to a mere public relations (PR) exercise must be avoided at all costs if CP is to duly function. Many contradictory ventures have been taken on in the name of CP, none of them self-sustaining, most of them even eyewash, sometimes corruptive.

The people have languished too long under Regime policing. The biggest drawback for the people is the bondage under Regime policing. Stupidity and want of intelligence that marked the history of CP for so long must be avoided.

This article is perforce addressed direct to new Minister apart from the readers.

(The writer is a Retired Senior Police Officer. He can be contacted at;
TP 077 44 751 44)


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