The 140th Police Day Anniversary
by Rienzie Perera
Director/Police Public Relations Bureau Police Headquarters.

Today, the Sri Lanka Police celebrates the 140TH anniversary of its establishment here. Among the numerous services it has rendered since then are primarily the maintenance of law, order and peace in the country, the protection of the general public, and also private and public property. Another significant contribution the Sri Lanka Police has made, particularly during the past two decades, is the protection and preservation of the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.

By virtue of a Royal Proclamation issued during the reign of the King Udaya II, the establishment of the Gam Sabha system with Police powers was a historically significant occurrence. Under this set-up while the Adhikaram happened to be at its apex in the capacity of the Chief Minister, the subordinate officers, that served under him were the Dissavas, Rate Mahattayas, Mohottalas and Korales. The respective duties of these officials were almost parallel to those in extant in the Police Department today.

The British, who took over the coastal areas in 1796, systematically organized the Police Force over the next few decades. They passed Regulation No. 6 of 1806 and proclaimed through the Government Gazette of 9th July, 1806 which authorized the appointments of Police Vidanes. Such appointments were made on the basis of at least one such officer for every village. They were Peace Officers appointed by the Agent of Revenue in each district with powers of search and arrest. They were entitled to 10% of the value of stolen property that they recovered.

Thereafter, by virtue of the Regulation No. 14 of 1806 made on 19th August, 1806, 28 Police Constables under a Head Police Constable were later appointed whose area of these duties extended to cover the urban areas as well. Police Constables were appointed initially for guard duties in Colombo, and later also in cities such as Negombo, Galle, Kandy and Trincomalee.

The strength of the Colombo Police were enhanced by Police Ordinance No. 3 of 1834, which became effective from 22nd May, 1834. The Regulation No. 14 of 1806 was repealed and replaced by this Ordinance.

In 1833, the Head of the Police Service was called the Superintendent of Police which designation was changed in 1836 to Chief Superintendent of Police, which was once again changed to Inspector General of Police under the Police Ordinance No. 16 of 1867, a nomenclature that has been in use up to this day. In that manner, the honour of being appointed as the first IGP fell on Mr. George William Robinson Campbell. Incidentally, the date of his appointment on 3rd September 1866 was deemed to be the day on which the formal inauguration of the Police Force also took place in the country. At the time he took over the Police Force there were 585 Police Officers serving in 47 Police Stations.

At the request of the then Governor, Sir Hercules Robinson, Mr. Campbell was sent from Bombay to reorganise the Ceylon Police. He had 9 years of experience in India as the head of Rathnagherry Rangers, the most efficient Police Force in Bombay. He took charge of the office of Chief Superintendent from Captain Drew. He brought many reforms including a new uniform, duty roster, constabulary register, quarterly Police Gazette, a system of regular inspections, a system of maintaining crime statistics, issuing of annual administrative reports etc. In 1869, he established the Police Headquarters and the Police Hospital in Maradana. While in 1872 the Police Band was formed in 1883 an Anti-Riot Unit was also established in the Kew Barracks in Slave Island.

Subsequently, the 33-year-old Mr. H. L. Dowbiggin, who was appointed as IGP in 1913, had a long and distinguished career for a period of 24 long years. His tenure of office in that capacity was marked by the establishment of (a) the post of DIG (b) the Criminal Investigation Department, (c) the Police Savings Association, (d) the Police Public Relations Bureau, (e) the Police Training College, (f) the Photographic and Technical Division, (g) the Police Children’s Welfare Association etc. All these innovations helped to confer this period as the "Golden Era of the Police Service" in then Ceylon.

The appointment of Sir Richard Aluvihare as IGP in 1947 was considered as one historic significance in that he happened to be the first son of the soil to be appointed to that office.

The various services rendered by the Police since its inception are worthy of mention, as stated below.

The Traffic Administration and Road Safety Range has been formed under the supervision of a DIG at the Police Headquarters for the purpose of bringing under its control the growing number of motor vehicles that converge on to the main thoroughfares everyday. This Range is also responsible for the prevention of motor accidents from occurring, together with protecting property from such motor accidents and also issuing circular instructions to all the Territorial Police in order to implement a better traffic management in the country. In order to carry out these tasks in an organized manner throughout the country, Traffic Branches have been formed in each of the Police Stations in the country. Range Traffic Divisions also have been set up to supervise and guide these traffic branches who should liaise with the respective Range DIGs and the Police Headquarters Traffic Range.

In addition, there are awareness-building programmes which are being carried out with various segments of society as target groups in order to give them an orientation on the correct usage of roads.

With a view to curb the high incidence of crime in the country which is assuming alarming proportions, Range Crimes Detection Branches have also been established in all the Police Ranges under the direct supervision of the Range DIG, in addition to the Crime Branches in Police Stations. These Range Branches are headed by Senior Gazetted Officers.

There is also a Division in the Police titled as Bureau for the Prevention of Abuse of Children & Women, that is assigned the task of taking deterrent action against all crimes perpetrated on women and children, which ranges from physical violence to sexual abuse.

There are also facilities available to them for their complaints to be recorded by female Police Officers and that too in a place away from public gaze so as to insulate them from any derisive comments by uncouth elements that would affect their self-respect. Specially selected Officers attached to all the Police Stations in the country have been trained by this Bureau to carry out these services islandwide.

The growing menace of drug addiction that is assuming alarming proportions particularly among the youth segment of our society is in constant check with the establishment of the Police Narcotics Bureau, based in the Police Headquarters. Also, every Police Officer is being given the necessary training on how they should deal with such instances of drug addiction. These steps have been taken because the Police is conscious of the need to wipe out this scourge from our society as soon as possible.

Also, in order to provide protection to police informants, strict measures are being taken not to expose them by revealing their identity to the general public. Provision is also available for any member of the general public to convey to the Police any information relating to crimes committed or about to be committed, even through anonymous telephone messages or letters, all which will be entertained and looked into.

This would provide a fool-proof method for such Police informants to perform their tasks unhindered and without any danger of their identity been revealed, which would otherwise have serious consequences to them for being duty-conscious in their obligations to society. The information can be furnished either to the respective Police Station or to 1-1-9 Emergency Service. As an encouragement to such civic-conscious citizens to bring to the notice of the Police vital information that will lead to the detection and apprehension of offenders, there is provision for such informants to be rewarded handsomely as an incentive for their public-spirited initiatives.

The Police of today in principle is committed to serve the needs of the people in particular. In order to do so, its personnel are expected to treat them with fraternal care which attitude should be well understood by both the Police and the general public. For, it should be borne in mind that when there is a need to make a complaint or seek redress the public almost invariably have to go to the Police Station close to them. If under such an atmosphere of cordiality, investigations into such complaints are conducted with mutual goodwill and understanding, then, it will be possible to develop a healthy relationship between the Police and the neighbouring community that comes within their area. It is therefore from such Police officers who have the qualities of leadership, honesty and efficiency that civil society would be benefited in no small measure.

It is a duty cast on us, on this occasion when we are commemorating the 140th anniversary of the establishment of the Police Service in our country, to recall with gratitude the great sacrifices of all those officers who have preceded the present generation of such officers, even at the cost of their own precious lives. They had done so in that manner in the course of carrying out their duties conscientiously not only to maintain law and order in the country but also to preserve its territorial integrity in the midst of so many odds. In this regard, the risk taken by the Special Task Force which was set up in 1983, cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed which, to say the least, is an example to the rest of their brethren in the Police Service today. They also play a key role in providing security to VIPs.

In terms of the Amendment to Section 17 of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, the latest addition to the Police Department structure is the Independent Police Commission. This Commission has been vested with irrevocable powers of recruitment of personnel (other than the Inspector General of Police), transfers, promotions, disciplinary action and dismissals. The establishment of this Commission has not only ensured the independence of this Department but also has created an environment that is conducive for its personnel to carry out their duties in a manner that gives them much job satisfaction.

Presently, there are 36 Territorial Divisions, 61 Functional Divisions 401 Police Stations and a strength of more than 65,000. We also consider this occasion to be opportune to extend a hearty handshake to all those who continue to serve the Police Service today with dedication and devotion in order or uphold the hoary traditions their predecessors have left behind for them to emulate. Mr. Chandra Fernando assumed duties on 01st October, 2004, as the 29th Inspector General of Police, and called upon the entire Police Force to usher in a new era.


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