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Kindergarten discipline for naughty cops - Editorial

10 September 2013 04:43 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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A high ranking police officer has taken to task, an entire police station in the east for bribe-taking by one officer in the particular station.  It has been reported that the top officer had made all the officers kneel down for about half an hour until two of them had fallen faint. It was also said that an ASP too had to raise his hands up for half an hour for the same offence, although he was not the culprit.

No one would disagree with the top official’s professed intention, that is deterrence or bringing discipline into the rank and file, and one could also argue that the armed forces and the police have their own internal methods of discipline for offences committed by the personnel of the respective forces. However, this incident, according to reports, raises so many questions in respect of discipline, of the law enforcement machinery in general and the official in particular.

The official had warned his victims that their promotions would be hampered if they divulged the incident to outsiders, raising the question as to whether this was an accepted method of discipline within the Police Department. It is but to the official’s knowledge as to why all officers of the police station concerned should be punished.  Also, we may question as to what the response of those so disciplined would have been, had a layman been treated in this manner by their colleagues, as reported in the media hundreds of times for the past several decades. Wouldn’t they have enjoyed the incident or at least justified it?

Whilst being food for thought with respect to this particular incident, the issue of bribe-taking is a serious matter to be concerned with and by the rate it has rooted itself deep into society, the “professed” intention of the official - being severe deterrence - has become a must to minimise it. However, it is unfortunate to read Transparency International’s annual corruption index in which the Sri Lankan Police Department, the main state machinery that has been tasked with uprooting such maladies ranks at one of the top three slots for the past several years.  In that sense, cleaning the Department is most essential.

It is unfortunate to read Transparency International’s annual corruption index in which the Sri Lankan Police Department, the main state machinery that has been tasked with uprooting such maladies ranks at one of the top three slots for the past several years
However, if police officers are used by politicians to cover up their corruption the latter are morally under obligation to help the former in fraud and corruption, leading to situations where both groups work hand in glove, until they fall out to the detriment of the former. Apart from political backing in big-time fraud a long lasting culture of bribe and the very setup of the institution push the low ranking personnel to expect kickbacks. For instance, police personnel taken from far away stations for election duty on the day of polling are sometimes just dropped off at polling centres and left to find the way back, compelling them to stop private vehicles using the power of their uniform. In turn, those vehicles with police personnel in the front seat tend to freely violate traffic rules. The bottom line is that the elimination of corruption in the Police Department or any institution for that matter has to be a process beginning from top to bottom and not the other way round.
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