30th November 1997


Home Page Front Page OP/ED News Business

Expressing disapproval of the Police behaviour and work

The following is yet another extract in our continuing series of excerpts from the book A History of the Ceylon Police by Former Deputy Inspector General of Police, A.C. Dep

Saunders in Charge (1872-1873) (continued from last week...)

The Reserve Sergeant 292 Andiris De Silva refused to take them into custody as they had committed no offence.

The Superintendent of Police, Galle, took this matter up with the Commandant. Explanations were called for. The Military alleged that extra Police were placed purposely " there to watch the movements of the officers when on that particular occasion they had a large party of ladies and gentlemen ". This was then reported to the Inspector-General who thought it best to refer it to the Governor than taking court action. The Governor was satisfied that Police officers were forcibly removed from their beats by Captain Tighe and ordered the Major-General to deal with the officers concerned.

Criticism of the Police.- Police came in for much criticism and several letters appeared in the Ceylon Times expressing disapproval of the Police behaviour and work. The incidents in Galle were too well known. In other places too, Police behaviour was disgraceful. On the 3rd May, 1872, Ana Avanna Thana Canoppa Chetty was distributing rice from his verandah in Pettah. A crowd was gathered on the road to receive this. Unfortunately the crowd was obstructing traffic. Inspector Andree and a Cons- table who came in a bandy were inconvenienced by this. Andree got off the bandy and used his horsewhip on the Chetty. The Constable used his cane on him. The Chetty charged the Inspector and Constable in Court and had them fined Rs. 25 and Rs. 5- respectively. Andree was one of the best Inspectors in the Force and had acted as Assistant Superintendent in the absence of Mr De La Harpe. There was inaction in other places. At Colpetty two men and a loose charactered woman were engaged in a verbal battle using obscene language. A Constable who happened to be there appeared to be enjoying the proceedings. He stirred himself to action when he noticed that he was observed. Another Constable then came to his assistance. The Ratnagherry who should have taken the parties into immediate custody seemed to enjoy the fun at a distance, which our nearer approach left him no alternative but to do his duty when another of the redcapped fraternity put in a sudden appearance to the assistance of his comrade". There were other instances which created a bad impression of the Police. The doing of the police led people to analyse the cause of this. Some put it down to the bad material taken in "That many of the Police are members of the lowest class of society and are the associates of the vilest part of the community ". The corruption of the Police was disclosed in an editorial. The two newcomers to the Force - Mr. Saunders and Major Tranchell were pictured as two officers engaged in the Herculean task of cleaning the Augean stables.

Increasing of Police strength.- Campbell asked for an increase of strength to perform Police functions effectively. He was given only the men required to relieve the guards of the Ceylon Rifles. Saunders too was convinced that a larger strength was necessary to properly perform Police duties within the present limits. The Police strength at the time was: paltry. Saunders pointed out forcefully the difficulties Police Officers were going through due to the inadequacy of strength. The men were required to do longer periods of duty with short periods of rest. The men doing Guard Duties were complaining with good reasons, " that whereas European troop are allowed five nights in bed to one on guard and native troops three and four to one, yet the Police are required to be on guard every alternate night ". Owing to the long periods of duty and the fewness of men, drill was greatly neglected and in consequence escort and guard duties were slovenly done. It was only possible to do 15—30 minutes drill twice or thrice a week.

The case of the men on beat duty was even worse. " A Constable goes on night duty at 7 p.m. is expected to patrol his beat till 6 a.m. If he apprehends any person or receives a charge of any kind he has the next day to proceed to the Station House to give full particulars of the charge and of the evidence he has received to the Inspector. He then goes home, perhaps two or three miles, cleans and dresses himself, eats a hurried meal and is off to the Courts, perhaps another two miles, where he is kept waiting for hours and has hardly time to return home when he is warned to attend, twice a week, for half an hour's drill at headquarters, he then has to prepare for night duty again for another eleven hours. Is it a wonder if he falls asleep and runs the risk of being fined a sum equal to his pay for three or four days or if a row or robbery occurs unnoticed by him of being summarily dismissed with loss of all pay due.

This strain on the men was due to the strength deficiency where few men had to do the work of many. Mr. Saunders summed up the situation in these words. " If we are forced to make a fewer number of men do the work of many, we must sacrifice efficiency to economy "'.

In addition to the strength deficiency there was a great " want of proper inspection and supervision ". This would have been a fortunate circumstance for the harassed Policemen but it was a serious drawback to people who expected a proper service from the Police. Supervision was also difficult because the men were scattered about. " The efficiency of a Police Force divided into small detachments over a large tract of country depends entirely upon proper supervision and constant inspection, and there is a great lack of this at present ". A Superintendent was required for Police Headquarters and an Assistant Superintendent for Jaffna.

The Disbandment of the Ceylon Rifle Regiment.—The decision to disband this efficient but expensive Regiment which was now considered a luxury had already been made. This regiment was gradually giving up some of its duties, particularly guard and escort duties. The Police had to take over these duties and needed extra men. The lawlessness which prevailed in certain areas necessitated the use of extra Police. The lawlessness between Kalutara and Bentota demanded extra strength. Besides, extra men were required to start the Detective Branches at Colombo, Kandy and Galle.

The Inspector-General was given the authority to take in 30 Sergeants and 300 Constables from the Rifle Regiment. The Inspector-General in turn authorised his Superintendents to take in men who were not pensioners and whose records were " Excellent" or " Good ". In this way 276 from this Regiment seemed to have been absorbed into the Force. The difficulty about uniform was surmounted with the co-operation of Colonel Hook who was pre pared to allow them to wear the uniform of this Regiment when doing guard duties. He also allowed the Police to use the Kew Barracks.

The Rifle Regiment Band.—This intake included the Rifle Regiment Band which consisted of one Bandmaster, one Sergeant and 20 constables. On the suggestion of the Bandmaster, Carl Pappe, the men were enlisted as Constables, paid Constables' salaries and were housed in Police Barracks. The Inspector-General was to be responsible for its management. " If I am to be responsible for the discipline and good behaviour of the men, I must have entire control over them," was the stipulation of the Inspector- General. This Band thus came to be described as the Police Band.

The reasons for the disbandment of the Rifle Regiment were thus summed up by the Governor, Sir William Gregory: " In the course of this session I abolished the Ceylon Rifles and with great regret. It was an excellent regiment, in a high state of discipline, most creditable to its officers and had done excellent service during the so-called rebellion of 1848. It was composed of Malays, small, active and extremely brave men, and would have been quite sufficient to keep the Colony free from any internal disturbances, for the natives greatly feared them and remembered their ruthlessness at the time I mention. But they had become a luxury and no longer useful for any purpose, and cost the Colony a large annual sum which could be far better employed. It would have been dangerous to have left Ceylon without white troops as this Malay and Mohammedan Regiment might have revolted and made themselves masters of it. Still I regretted being the author of the overthrow of an institution long connected with the Colony, and of which it was justly proud and I regretted losing a team of such excellent cricketers; but we took over their admirable Band, trained by a, first rate German Bandmaster, Herr Pappe. He was extremely irritable and it was impossible to keep one's countenance within earshot of his remarks. He had a very great dislike to his musicians indulging in betel chewing during the performance which was natural enough and one night at Queen's House he was heard to shout " Oh, you Goddamn rascals, you take your Goddam. beetles out of your mouth".

The selection of a Superintendent for Police Headquarters and an Assistant Superintendent for Jaffna was done from outside this regiment. Mr. W. S. Le Feuvre, the Secretary of the Kandy Municipality was selected as Superintendent and Mr. W. S. Murray, the Fiscal, Jaffna, was selected as the Assistant Superintendent. Mr. Charles Bryde, the Avissawella Magistrate was also an applicant for this post.

Continue to Plus page 11 * My wife died to save a dog

Return to the Plus contents page

Read Letters to the Editor

Go to the Plus Archive



Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to or to