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POLICE-PUBLIC RELATIONS: A MODERN, SACRED AND HUMANE VISION

2017-09-07 00:12:24
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“Law is a pledge that citizens of a state will do justice to one another” Aristotle (384 - 322 BC)  
The great Greek Philosopher, Scientist and Physician 
“Where is there any book of the Law so clear to each man as that written in his heart?”  
Leo Tolstoy (1828 - 1910), the Great Russian Writer and Sage.


I am fully convinced that, at the outset, a brief introductory word is invariably called for.  
When the State, graciously asked me to take over as Inspector General of Police (IGP), I accepted the order, with due humility and deference, as in my mind, this assignment assumed the stature of a sacred trust.  

From the initial moment itself, I was totally aware that this was a tremendous responsibility, that I had to fulfil, both for my own sake, and for the sake of the country and the nation.  

I was officially placed in this prestigious position, at a time, when the whole of the Police Force of Sri Lanka, was entering an era that was of high historical significance. The Police Force completed its 150th year of existence on September 3, 2016. Exactly a year has passed since that celebration.  

As things are, I was assigned the office of the IGP around that time. Against the backdrop of those celebrations, I was destined to become the 34th IGP of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.  

Many instances of victimization of Police personnel were recorded in the past. The rest of the members and I are not at all concerned with the ideologies, the rabble rousers espouse. We are deeply interested in saving lives and public property

From my early childhood on, I was keenly sensitive to the history of our great Island, by birth itself. I had the privilege of being raised in a social background, that was intimately close to the throbbing and pulsating realities of folk-life. At times, I would perform some minor farming chores to assist in my own little way - my elders who were toiling in the fields.  

I say all. this merely to record that, the cumulative effect of all this was the reason for my being fully aware of the joys and sorrows, the ups and downs of our masses.  

From the time I joined the Police Force, I witnessed the inter-relations between the Police and the community. Under the Colonial Rule, the Police Force was considered by the people at large, as an alien presence, that was antagonistic to the masses. Historical records bear testimony to the suffering the people had to endure, at the hands of the Imperially Deployed Police Force.  

Even in the post-Independent era, the fear engendered by the colonial police force, continued to mar meaningful relations between the Police and the Public at least vestigially. I tend to believe, that even in some advanced countries, this trepidation at the presence of a member of the Police Force, was at times, evident-even though, those countries had never known what colonial rule was.  

I came upon an intriguing instance, of this kind of built-in trepidation at the presence of the Police. This episode is linked to a globally reputed personality. This individual, the widely known film Director Alfred Hitchcock, was British by birth. His father was a village Green Grocer. When little Alfred was about eight he behaved mischievously. His father thought that this had to be corrected. He called his son and gave him a little note. “My son please give this note to Constable Uncle” the father said. The innocent little fellow took the note to his father’s friend, the village constable.

The father said in the note: “My little fellow is a bit mischievous. Please give him some mild advice.” After reading the note “the Constable Uncle” showed the child a ferocious face and said “I know what to do with naughty-little fellows.” Little Alfred was locked up for a few minutes and released. The Lingering outcome was, Alfred Hitchcock, as Film Director, making a whole series of suspense films to frighten the audiences.  

From that, I could come closer to home, in our own country. There have been several important initiatives to bring about the Police-public relations closer to the benefit to society on the whole. Although, these efforts have tended to usher in - at least to some extent - more positive and wholesome relations between the Police and the public, I must frankly admit, we still have miles to go.  

Police-public amity will ensure - both mental and physical  well-being of our people who could lead unperturbed lives under the protective shelter provided by the Police to all members of society

As a totally committed Police Officer, my formal outlook is total impartiality. My people and I do not want even marginally to get involved in squabbles and conflicts between opposing groups or get entangled in clashes brought on by unscrupulous individuals and groups. The fellow members and I belonging to the police force, are truly troubled by the heartless victimizations of persons on the outcome of confrontations, disputes, arguments and mere verbal exchanges.  

I profoundly believe that it is high time we should say, “enough is enough” to the plethora of mass disturbances that are brought about by unruly hooligans and rabble-rousers, making life utterly unpleasant at times in this sacred “righteous” land.  

My concerned effort is to make the people see, how we mar such a beautiful land and make innocents the piteous victims of diabolical groups. My considered view of the matter is that the initial move towards the establishment of a wholesome relationship between the Police and the public should undoubtedly come from enlightened individuals and organized community groups.  

At the outset, the generality of the people - from children to the senior citizens - must be made to appreciate fully the wholesome and life-enhancing role played by even the most minor member of the Police Force.  

May I ask a question? When some untoward occurrence takes place in the remotest corner of the island, and at the most ungodly hours, who is the first person who would make his presence at that site in question? Invariably, it would be a Police Officer.  

Let us take a look at other scenario where policemen had risked their lives.  

You may have seen an umpteenth number of times that those of our officers who direct traffic movements in the blazing sun, in the pouring rain, in the misty and dusty weather conditions, they are still at work; moving their hands almost incessantly to make the road safe for man and vehicle.  

Instances have been reported to me of some traffic cops who were in waist-deep in flooded streets, doing their duty, although they have had ample reason to leave the spot and to get to safety.  

At violent public rallies, at ferocious demonstrations, at turbulent and fiery upheavals, the people are uncontrollably vulnerable. The Police Force is not interested in their causes or motivations or their reasons for this destructive behaviour. The members of our Police Force wade into the thick human confusion to quell violence. Unfortunately in the course of their efforts to save lives, they often fall victim.  

Many moving instances of victimization of Police personnel were recorded in the recent past. The rest of the members and I of the Force, are not at all concerned with the ideologies, the rabble rousers espouse. We are deeply interested in saving lives and public property.  

Our humane commitment is to a well-established, fully functional public-police relations system. In the recent past, our streets have turned into highly explosive barriers, manned by men and women, who obstruct public paths. It is not exactly up on our streets to explore the disastrous obstruction to workers, the massive wastage of working hours, in a land struggling to achieve development. But, as custodians of Law and Order, ensuring peace and harmony, protecting lives, my members and I are deeply troubled by the highly threatening violence on our roads, that led to untold tensions and agony.  

I believe that it is high time we should say, “enough is enough” to the plethora of mass disturbances that are brought about by unruly hooligans and rabble-rousers, making life unpleasant in this sacred and “righteous” land

The Police Force has no Non-Police motivation to probe why thousands of youth throng the roads, making the Police Force anxious about life and property in the path of these people-haters. We have to use this expression, though reluctantly, as they so obviously, openly, carelessly and diabolically mar the beauty and harmony of the of nature’s gift - human life.  

If they have causes, there are others who would focus on them, but our deepest commitment is to garner peace and harmony and proper enactment of laws.  

Behind the formidable and formal uniform our Police personnel present to the world. Human beings made of flesh and blood; fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, sons and daughters, sisters, brothers... the loved ones are awaiting their return home. But some of them do not return to the bosom of their family.  

The members of the good public would have watched - times without count - when these marginalized groups threaten our officers. I am quite certain that many people would have seen the widely-displayed photograph of a highly trained police officer leaning back to avoid the fist of a religiously-clad marauder. That sensible officer was expertly trained for combat. But, he did not, even for a moment, raise his hand in defence - highly legitimate defence - at that juncture.  

All these lead to one vital question. Where do we begin building a stable public-police relations system? My own view on the matter is that we must initiate this system at school-level. Children are exceptionally sensitive to peace and harmony. Some young ones burst in tears at the sight of an animal being hurt.  

The other important citadel is the place of religion; monasteries, temples, churches, mosques and congregations.  

Thirdly, the movement must reach the parents. They have to safeguard their beloved children. As a man, familiar from the earliest days with the rural-folk, I could fully visualize how the fond parents of victimized youth must be weeping both inside and out.  
The rural, urban and national leaders must feel duty-bound to restore peace, harmony and friendly co-existence of this great and noble land by strengthening ties among communities and Police - perpetually committed to promote such links.  

I have my cherished personal credo: “People, with destructive agendas may want to aim barbs at me. But, I would like to say, “Let them.” I will be undaunted, tread on the path towards the creation of Sri Lanka, where Police-public amity will ensure - both mental and physical  well-being of our people who could lead unperturbed lives under the protective shelter provided by the Police to all members of society. I am fully aware that all sensible people would support this noble humane course.  

I would always uphold the gracious trust the state had placed on me by presenting to the state a land where law and order and untrammelled humanity could co-exist with the masses focused on the pursuit of happiness, unobstructed and uninterrupted.    

 


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