The history associated with Police duties in Sri Lanka spans over more than two centuries. However, considering September 3, 1866, the day on which Sir G. W. R. Campbell was first appointed to the position of Inspector General of Police, as the day Police Service was constitutionally established, 156th Police Day is commemorated today.

The historical details of Police hold a significant value in bringing about a Police Service which promotes development by being more people-friendly and virtuous.

As per a resolution was passed by the Colombo Municipal Council on June 10, 1650 after the conquest of the coastal areas by the Dutch, the deployment of four soldiers to control trade in the City of Colombo and to guard the city at night marks the inception of Police duties in Sri Lanka.

Army soldiers were deployed for Police duties in Colombo City, Dutch soldiers in the Fort area and mercenaries of Malay origin were deployed outside the Fort area in the past to perform Police duties.

In 1806, the British had enacted an ordinance for the performance of Police duties outside the City of Colombo and by 1833, a Police Service in which a payment was made by the government had emerged. During this time, Thomas Austin had been appointed as a Superintendent of Police. To provide Police Service to a population of around 39,000 in the City of Colombo, a Police team which consisted of 165 officers had been serving at the time.

By making the Police Ordinance, effective at the time, null and void in 1843, the Governor was granted power to establish Police Stations in any city within the island. Introducing the post of Inspector of Police in 1843, the number of officers had been increased and after abolition of the position of Police Peon, the post of Police Constable had been introduced. By the end of 1863, there had been 48 Police Stations and by 1867, Police Headquarters was situated near the mosque in Maradana. Sir Richard Aluvihare was appointed the first Sri Lankan Inspector General of Police, even before the Independence, in 1947. He was the 11th Inspector General of Police in this country.

Even the Department of Police has transformed itself by beginning to offer various duties by establishing and expanding the number of Police Stations throughout the island to accommodate the socio-economic and political changes this county underwent as a result of gaining Independence in 1948.

One of the policies followed when establishing a Police Station was the presupposition that the said Police Station has to be maintained using the rates collected from the relevant city.

Sri Lanka Police occupies an important place among the institutions which are instrumental in ensuring accountability and responsibility of the public on behalf of the Government. Therefore, during the attempts made by Police to surmount all the obstacles against the maintenance of law and order, an estrangement between the Police and the public has become a common occurrence. However, public relation is a sine qua non for the performance of Police duties.

Police is the establishment which confronted all the protests and uprisings that were unleashed against the Government. During the attempt to overthrow the Government in 1971, the insurgents first attacked the Police. The Police Force which had been established inherently different from the characteristics of an Armed Force was compelled to be equipped with firearms under such circumstances. During the war waged by the L. T. T. E., the said need was acutely felt. Similar incidents could be observed during the struggles that took place lately.

Amendments with regard to allowances, salaries, promotions and transfers which affect the motivation of Police Officers kept changing from one Government to the other. A long-term plan had not been implemented in that regard. This had a huge impact on the social stigma attached to the Police that it is politicized.

Establishment of new Police Stations

Locations for opening new Police Stations have been selected as a result of surveys that have been conducted recently.

As of 2016, there were 438 Police Stations operating in Sri Lanka and the number of Police Officers on duty at the time was 86,830, including the officers of the Police Special Task Force. In 2016, it was decided to increase the number of Police Stations to 600 and to start community policing services. Accordingly, it was possible to increase the number of Police Stations to 494. In 2019, it was proposed to add 201 new Police Stations as per the National Policy Framework “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”. Accordingly, the number of Police Stations was to be increased to 695. Out of those, 111 new Police Stations have been declared open and functioning at the moment and 605 Police Stations are currently operating all over the island. By the time of the 156th Police Day celebration, the number of officers of the Sri Lanka Police is 86,698. In addition, the total number of Police Officers in active service is 96,563 including 8,326 officers of the Special Task Force, 1,307 Support Service Officers (Work Unit) and 232 Police Security Assistants (S.A). The approved strength of the Police Service is 102,097, excluding the Police Special Task Force. However, even though it was planned to recruit the said number of personnel in the year 2022, it could not be achieved due to the current economic situation in the country. Since many Police Stations were stationed in rented houses and the infrastructure and the officers who served in the previous Police Stations were divided among Police Stations, the productivity expected from the project of increasing the number of Police Stations has hardly been achieved so far.

Restructuring the Police

The current Inspector General of Police C. D. Wickramaratne has introduced a project of restructuring the Police and it is currently being implemented. Accordingly, a new structure of Police Administration has been introduced. According to the new structure, the number of Territorial Police Divisions was amended to 45 and Functional Police Divisions to 77, and the number of officers required for Police Service has been amended to 107,000. Accordingly, various divisions and Police duties as well as ranges allocated for the Police Administration took a new appearance.

Criminal Investigation Department

Under this project, the Criminal Investigation Department has been divided into five divisions and the services have been expanded. Accordingly, the Criminal Investigation Department has been categorized based on the nature of the complaints being investigated and investigation files. The investigations are carried out by new divisions under five Directors. The newly formed divisions are,

1. Illegal Assets Investigation Division
2. Cyber Crimes Investigation Division
3. Financial and Commercial Crimes Investigation Division
4. Human Trafficking, Smuggling and Maritime Crime Investigation Division
5. Homicide and Organised Crime Investigation Division.

Equal Treatment towards Female Officers

It is noteworthy how female Police Officers are also given opportunities to become officers in charge of Police Stations, Divisions and Ranges, guaranteeing gender equality. Furthermore, for the first time in history, four Woman Deputy Inspectors General of Police were appointed while providing them with the opportunity to reach up to the position of Inspector General of Police. Currently, there are four Woman Deputy Inspectors General of Police, four Woman Senior Superintendents of Police, 13 Woman Assistant Superintendents of Police, 1,149 female officers of the Inspectors’ grade, 9,464 female officers of Police Sergeant and Police Constable Grade serving in all areas of the island while performing duties admirably along with the male officers. The infrastructure required for female officers to perform their duties in a good mental condition has been improved.

A Bureau for the Prevention of Abuse of Children and Women has been established in all the 605 Police Stations that are currently functioning covering the entire island and Divisional Bureaus for the Prevention of Abuse of Children and Women have been established in all 45 Divisions. Deputy Inspectors General of Police have been appointed after dividing this bureau into two sections called Investigation Range and a Preventive Range and the functions of those units have been actively put into effect.

Promotions to Officers

Around 31,541 Police officers in various ranks have been promoted on January 1, 2019, July 1, 2019, January 1, 2020 and February 8, 2020 as a solution to the long-standing problem of not promoting Police Officers. Meanwhile, 927 personnel in the support services and 490 officers of the Police Special Task Force have been promoted.

Thirteen Woman Chief Inspectors of Police were promoted to the position of Woman Assistant Superintendent of Police and 225 officers from the position of Chief Inspector of Police were promoted to the position of Assistant Superintendent of Police on March 18, 2021. This was the time when the most number of people were promoted to the position of Assistant Superintendent of Police.

Providing Public Service

Rather than increasing the number of officers or Police Stations, people expect Police to perform the main duties such as curbing crime, narcotics, road accidents and vice and maintaining law and order of the country while creating an environment in which day-to-day activities can be carried out normally. Therefore, it is more important to focus on the capacity in which efforts made to perform Police duties.

119 Emergency Call Service and Police Assistance Room are very important current services where the Police duty is delivered.

Help Desk, 119 Emergency Call Service and Scene of Crime Operation (SOCO) Laboratory, established recently, are prominent services which cater to the timely needs through Police duties.

Due to the lack of proper office facilities, it was difficult to provide a prompt and satisfactory service to those who have been coming with the intention of getting a people-friendly service to collect clearance reports which are necessary to go abroad. Introducing an online system via internet facility was a significant service provided to the people to completely avoid this situation and to guarantee an efficient service. Direct networking with the Government institutions such as Department of Registration of Persons, fingerprint comparison using computers are great services to provide an efficient service. Introducing a document as a separate Police form to provide at the time of recording the complaint regarding misplaced documents for obtaining a copy of the complaint is also a people-friendly decision.

Enhancing Productivity through the use of Technology

It is important to maintain a CCTV System to identify criminals and to look into crime investigation as a whole, usage of mobile Vehicles with CCTV, recording videos from the Criminal Records Division and maintaining a print and electronic observation room covering TV Channels, websites and social media 24 hours a day by the Media Division.

VPN technology is to be used and further improve Arrested Monitoring and Information System (AMIS) and Automatic Fingerprint Identification Data System (AFIS). Usage of D.N.A. Technology to identify criminals, initiating investigation at the same place where finger prints, foot prints found at the crime scene connecting with the investigation lab are positive signs to speed up investigations. It has been planned to further enhance these initiatives.

Reporting and Solving Crimes

When considering the recent past, in 2018, 36,354 of grave crimes were reported, of which 28,246 crimes were solved. The percentage of solving crimes of the relevant year was 78%. In year 2019, 34,578 of grave crimes were reported, of which 25,611 were solved. The percentage of solving crimes of the year was 74%. In year 2020, 31,098 of grave crimes were reported, of which 24,412 were solved. The percentage of solving crimes of the year was 79%. In year 2021, 35,412 of grave crimes were reported, of which 28,122 were solved. The percentage of solving crimes of the year was about 79%. As a whole, this can be mentioned as a great achievement of Sri Lanka Police. This comparison shows that there is a slight fluctuation in the number of crimes reported in the last four years. There has not been a rapid increase in crimes. Therefore, it can be seen that, crimes are under a certain control. Carrying out investigations with the assistance of advanced technological procedures for solving crimes, commitment towards law enforcement, taking preventive measures and also people having more family time at home for the past three years, due to travel restrictions imposed for the prevention of COVID-19 virus from spreading, are assumed to be the reasons behind the control of reporting crimes. So it can be considered a great achievement of Sri Lanka Police.

Traffic Management and Road Safety

Traffic Management and Road Safety duties of Sri Lanka Police are well exposed to the general public, and are being criticized by many. The traffic congestion caused by the increasing number of vehicles day by day, should be turned into a smoother traffic flow. For that, the Police perform a very challenging duty regardless of day-night, sun, rain, dust and fumes from vehicles to manage the use of roads and Expressways by pedestrians and vehicles. By performing their duty, Sri Lanka Police are contributing to the public to save the unnecessary waste of time and fuel.

Annually, a large sum of money has been generated to the Government, by imposing law according to the Motor Traffic Act in order to control road accidents and traffic offences for the protection of lives and property and by imposing fines on offenders and following legal procedures. Statistical reports on road accidents that occurred in recent years can be analyzed as follows.

Therefore, the number of deaths due to fatal accidents is approximately between six to eight per day. Also there is a probability of occurring three or four accidents approximately per 1,000 vehicles.

Drug related crimes

Drug related crimes which come under the category of grave crimes can be identified under Narcotic Drugs and Sedatives. Most raids carried out by Sri Lanka Police on narcotics are considered as reported incidents. When comparing the apprehended amount of narcotics with the number of prosecutions, it can be seen that there are more people arrested under the offence of drug trafficking than drug consuming. The reason for this is that there is still no specific method or law imposed to arrest people who are intoxicated by using drugs like heroin, morphine, ice (crystal meth) etc. in our country.

On this 156th Police Day, history of Police as well as the contemporary Police performance should be understood, with a comprehensive understanding of such challenges.

An array of Police duties diverts to a different direction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, before fulfilling the multiplicity of duties assigned with the Easter attack. Even before the said pandemic comes to an end, Police Officers have to perform their duties in a well disciplined manner in the face of strict restraints in the economic, social and political changes caused by the protests and uprisings in the country.

Services extended by the Police and health sector cannot be fulfilled from home. Their services have to be performed in the client's presence and there are times when duties are required to be performed continuously without respite.

We are standing on the verge of many economic and social issues affecting people's lives. There are no loopholes in the decrees and ordinances to make humanitarian decisions regarding crimes, thefts and illegal activities caused by unorganised efforts taken in the struggle for survival. The Police Officer, who takes legal actions against such crimes, has to make direct decisions in the face of the law.

Being an institution that has been established more than a century and a half ago, a permanent headquarters premises for Sri Lanka Police, is currently being constructed in Attidiya area. Most of the Police Divisions and Police Stations are being operated in rented buildings.

Around 3,039 Police Officers have died to the date, while performing Police duties. 2,598 out of the said number are the War Heroes who sacrificed their lives due to LTTE terrorist activities and 1,571 became permanently disabled. 441 Police Officers have sacrificed their lives and 78 have become permanently disabled while discharging Police regular duties, to protect properties and lives of the public. Police Officers, who become disabled, were sent on retirement on medical grounds. Even though some of them are performing Police duties in the service, the capacity for them to serve is limited to a certain area.

Police Remembrance Day is celebrated on March 21 every year to honour their service and they will be remembered as long as Police duty exists. A number of new names are added to the list of dead and disabled Police Officers, every year.

The Police Department was administered and governed as a service by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Internal Security as well as it was governed under the Independent Police Commission and it is currently being administered by the Ministry of Public Security of the present Government.

From a criminological point of view, today's Police Service is organised, not to embrace the development that will befall us around 2050 and enjoy its benefits, but to impose appropriate laws and regulations and provide the Police training required to curb technology related crimes that will occur in the future.

But this condition can be moderately overcome by adapting to the modern and complicated society through advanced use of technology and proper training. Apart from that, measures should be taken to make the Police Officer a sensitive and trustworthy person by making the officer financially stable, so that the said officer may not be driven by avarice. Further, steps should be taken to overcome the obstacles that prevent them from having healthy relationships with the public and, it will result in creating a law-abiding society by empowering the mechanism of being responsible and duty-bound on the part of the public.

Police is one of the organisations that discharge duties to establish the criminal justice system. Court, prison and probation are a few other institutions under the said system. As long as crimes are perpetrated in the society, services extended by the Police are indispensable to the public. If there is a Police area in which law-abiding and courteous people are living, the Police Station can be transferred to another village or the Police Force can be employed to achieve the social development goals. This can be achieved not in a society where the Police and the people are divided but in a society where the group membership of each individual is equally accepted and honoured with feelings of mutual respect and independence. The fervent wish of a Police Officer who is committed towards the betterment of the public at all times, is to witness commendations and accolades received in recognition of the yeoman service of Police Officers in days to come.

Add new comment