“The good of the people is the greatest law” – Marcus Cicero
The law governs human actions. It is our adherence to the law that keeps society in order. The Police being empowered to execute the law are also responsible to act without favour or prejudice. This year the Sri Lanka Police Service celebrates a glorious milestone of 150 years. The Police played a pivotal role during the conflict era rising to confront violent threats. Many gallant officers died on duty, upholding the dignity and decorum of the uniform. As in any department the Police have had their share of failure. Whilst majority of its cadre, both past and present, have served with distinction, the actions of some disgruntled officers, showing a lack of integrity has tarnished the image of the service.
The National Police Commission headed by Prof. Siri Hettige is already empowered to act on complaints against Police Officers on violations of human rights, injury or death whilst in Police custody, acts of interference, intimidation, abuse of power, illegal arrest and detention, failure to carry out duties partially, use of abusive words and inaction.
The NPC has set out a Code of Ethics to govern the Police Force, which is commendable. There was a code in existence before but it seemed outdated to sustain the rapid demands of a people-friendly force. As the international community focuses on our motherland, the proposal of the NPC endorsed by the IGP is brilliant. It is a yardstick by which Policemen and Policewomen will carry out their duty.
Prof. Hettige stated that “The Code of Ethics will be implemented at National level, and then locally to every single Police station”. He further emphasized that the new Code will be incorporated as a training module and be a part of the syllabus for new recruits and also used in periodic in-service training.
One must bear in mind that a Policeman is a human being. He is a father, husband, son and brother. He deals with desires and emotions like us. He works longer hours than a regular job. It requires him to confront an assortment of people including criminal offenders. As such a Policeman must display intelligence, stamina and the right temperament as he is legally empowered to carry a firearm. One of the areas of neglect for the Officers was due promotions. The Inspectors, Sub Inspectors, Sergeants and Constables were the ranks who were mostly deprived. Reward and appreciation motivates an employee to work with a positive attitude.
The new Code outlines the following with regard to improving public relations:-
All officers must display courtesy in speaking to anyone who comes to their station, without prejudice. The Police must act with discretion when questioning any person regarding any inquiry. When a person is in Police custody they must be treated with respect. If they require medical treatment they must be granted such assistance immediately. The Code advises Police not to accept gifts or favours of any kind from the public. Even when off duty the officer must live as an example to other citizens.
The Code also aims to foster better relations with Senior and Junior Officers. Senior officers are asked to treat subordinates with respect and compassion. They are to uphold the dignity of the junior officers and look into their health and welfare. Junior Officers in turn must return the respect and trust of their seniors and work effectively. All ranks must bear in mind that only the Courts have the authority to enforce punishment on the convicted person. The Police top management is tasked with monitoring and evaluating the Code of Ethics.
The word control outlines three management functions: 1. Setting standards; 2. Measuring actual performance; 3. Taking corrective action. In any establishment it is easy to set rules and demand compliance. Measuring performance is a challenge for the Police Service as they serve the public in 439 Stations island-wide. The third segment of taking corrective action is the most important phase in the implementation of the new Code.
Yet some ponder if political influence and other factors will overpower the effectiveness of the code? The general public is confident in the incumbent IGP who is a fearless officer who always campaigned to create a people-friendly Police Service. The Police must be appreciated for creating awareness campaigns in schools about the danger of drugs and road safety, etc. The legislature, judiciary and civil society must also support the implementation of the new code. The public should act with dignity when dealing with the Police and not use undue influence. All Sri Lankans have a duty to abide by the law.