Reforming the Police | Daily News

Reforming the Police

President Maithripala Sirisena's decision to introduce far reaching changes in the police service would be welcomed not only by the police officers themselves but also by the public. According to the President, much needs to be done to build the image of the police and lift the morale of its men and women.

Most police officers have been victims of punishment transfers and other acts of discrimination at the instance of politicians, he observed. The welfare of members of the police, their salary issues, meals, health and housing problems had for long been placed on the backburner by successive Governments, he added.

As a result, there have been disillusionment and frustration among police personnel which has resulted in most of them leaving the service. It was his intention, as Minister in charge of Law and Order, to reverse this trend. An opportunity would be given to all policemen and policewomen who had left the service in disgust as a result of being mistreated or victimized to rejoin the service.

Speaking to media heads and newspaper editors at the President's House on Wednesday, the President said he would eliminate all problems and shortcomings affecting the police service and transform it into a modern outfit providing it with all facilities and the latest technical know-how in crime detection while tackling all complaints and grievances of police personnel.

No doubt, the police had long been an institution taken for granted both by politicians and the public. It is also a much maligned body and often-times for good reasons. That there are corrupt elements among police officers is only all too well known. Due to this, they are viewed with contempt and disdain by the public. Some Police officers too have offered themselves as willing tools of politicians. There are also others who are involved in sleaze and rackets. The recent abduction and murder of two businessmen in Rathgama, no doubt, has opened a can of worms, as to doings within the police service.

Hence, the first task of the President should be to cleanse the police service and purge it of undesirables within its ranks. This should precede any modernizing or upgrading of the service, for no amount of reforms introduced would suffice until the policemen themselves reform. We say this because, during the war years, recruitment was done to the police without much screening like in the case of the Armed Forces due to the need to augment manpower. As a result undesirables and criminal elements, in all probability, have made their way into the police service. Perhaps, the gruesome acts we hear of that are blamed on police personnel may have had their origins in this flawed process.

Hence, the need to give a clean image to the police as a matter of priority as the police service as a whole has got a bad name due to the nefarious acts of a few. It has also been brought to ridicule by some of the high ranking officers who should know better. To the President's credit, the police service has shown phenomenal results after he took the Law and Order Ministry under his command. Unprecedented detections of narcotics consignments were made within three months since he took over the Ministry. Clearly, all obstacles standing in the way of drugs detection had been removed and the police given a free hand to act. It is also clear that powerful forces had been blocking anti-narcotics operations all this while, going by the sudden surge in the detections with the President's takeover of the Law and Order Ministry.

The President's decision to increase the intake into the police service within the next few months, with particular emphasis on the recruitment of Tamil-speaking policemen to man stations in the North, too is a move in the right direction. With the expansion of incidents of crime and narcotics rackets taking new dimensions, there is indeed a need for expanding the service from its current strength of 85,000. Not just the North, bilingual Tamil police officers could now be deployed on a large scale even in the South. In the past most Tamil police officers distinguished themselves while serving in the South with at least one such member going on to adorn the highest rank (Inspector General) in the service.

Meanwhile, the President has taken the fight against the narcotics menace to the illicit brew, as well, and given an ultimatum to the police to smash up all moonshine (kassippu) dens before Vesak Poya. It is moot though if the police will succeed in meeting this deadline, given the vast spread of the moonshine trade and depleted manpower in the police. Besides, the business is firmly established and in most instances carried out with political patronage. The estate sector is reported to be the worst affected, with a not inconsiderable number of women being addicts. Besides, according to most studies, the problem is also rooted in poverty and deprivation, and, hence, is a social problem that needs to be tackled outside the scope of the law enforcement.


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