Poor policing again to the fore | Daily News

Poor policing again to the fore

In a brazen act of daring a youth let off a gun inside the Mt. Lavinia Courts targeting an accused seated in the dock, on Thursday, in another glaring instance of a breakdown in the law and order situation and, what is more, a demonstration of the impunity with which crime is committed in this country, not to mention the breach of security in an institution such as a Courthouse. This incident certainly does not speak much for the Police Force which has allowed things to drift, from all available evidence.

It was only the other day that we pointed out the ineffectiveness of the Police which had been practically reduced to mere bystanders while 17 killings had taken place around the country in June and July and the fact that up to date not a single arrest has been made. While there had been shootings before this outside Court premises, this is perhaps the first time that a gun was let off inside a Courthouse while proceedings were going on.

There is always a heavy Police presence in all Court complexes. What were the Police doing without body searching those entering the Court premises knowing that an incident of this nature was bound to take place, given the daring displayed by present day criminals?

Here we have a scenario where the Court Sergeant goes about the Courts sniffing at everybody present to ascertain if any of them were after liquor. But it appears that no attempt had been made to find out if anybody was carrying a firearm. If this state of affairs is allowed to continue very soon even the sitting Judges themselves could be targets. The fate that befell High Court Judge Sarath Ambeypitiya should still be fresh in the minds of law enforcement in this country. Hence Judges too could be vulnerable to attacks inside the Courts.

What happened inside the Mt. Lavinia Courts is a glaring instance of Police apathy which is also apparent in their efforts at fighting crime. The assailant not only opened fire inside the Court but also managed to escape in spite of the presence of a Police Post outside the Courts Complex. Surely, the officers there must have heard the noise of the gunshot and should have been alert, anticipating the next move. IGP Chandana Wickremaratne should order a full probe into the matter to ascertain if there was a breach of security at the Courts and if there was any negligence on the part of Police Officers on duty.

The Mt. Lavinia Court incident brings into sharp focus the need for overhauling and upgrading the Police Service which is in a state of slumber. The Police Service needs to be rebuilt from scratch and the officers brought up to date with modern methods deployed in crime detection and dealing with crime. Crime in the present day has assumed new dimensions with the involvement of the narcotics element and sophisticated weapons in free circulation.

In all recent incidents of motorcycle killings and drive-by murders the weapon used was the T-56. Whatever happened to the grand scheme launched by the Police top brass sometime ago to have all firearms in circulation surrendered to the Police with an amnesty offered to those in possession? The free use of the T-56 in the current spate of killings is ample evidence that this campaign had been a flop.

Therefore the IGP should move into the next step of seeking out all such weapons and taking legal action against the offenders. If not, the crime rate and the killings will only increase several fold with rival narcotic gangs killing each other with impunity, and, in the melee and crossfire, taking the lives of innocents as well.

Hence, the Police have their work cut out. The men in Khaki should be given the necessary training to confront the new challenges posed by organised crime. Special units should be set up to go after well-known criminals. Police spokesmen often come out with the various aliases of known criminals when their Golayas (associates) get arrested. But the kingpins are allowed to roam free.

No wonder the rate of successful prosecution of criminals is only around four per cent in this country. This is mainly due to the fact that the Police are unable to present their cases effectively, enabling big-time criminals to go scot-free on technical grounds or through various legal loopholes. This is another area where the Police will need to pull up their socks.

There indeed are brave and independent officers in the ranks of the Police Service. But as is all too well known they are a disillusioned and frustrated lot due to being overlooked for promotions or salary hikes at the cost of favourites of politicians - a fact that was bared by the IGP himself following the spate of attacks on the houses of Ministers and MPs on May 9. Any overhaul of the Police Service, therefore, should start with ridding it of political influence. Merit should be the sole criterion for advancement in the Police Service.

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