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Integrity checks for Police

Integrity checks for Police

18 Sep 2023

One of the key reasons why Sri Lanka is in the crisis situation we find ourselves in, is the lack of rule of law. Sri Lanka has had a systematic failure to enforce the laws which govern the land for decades. As such, lawlessness, crime and corruption rains. One of the key issues which has been a part of the problem is the lack of integrity and professionalism in the law enforcement agencies. Today, many have little or no respect for the Police. The Police Department is widely believed to be ineffective, and a haven for crooks, and politicised cops, that often use the law as they please. As unpalatable as it may be, that is the widely held public perception. Over the last two weeks, there have been reports of Policemen attempting to help high profile narco-crime suspects to flee remand, and others being arrested for pawning jewellery which was held in court evidence storage. Over the last five years, multiple reports surfaced of police collusion in crime, and an arrest reported of fifteen police officers of the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) and the Special Task Force (STF) for running a drug trafficking.

In many countries, Governments perform integrity checks on key state officials, prime amongst them, law enforcement officials. Integrity tests are often simulated events that place a police officer unwittingly in a monitored situation with an opportunity for unethical decision making. Many countries such as the United Kingdom, The United States, New Zealand, Canada and Australia use integrity tests, as they are useful means to prevent and detect police corruption. Integrity testing in policing can be traced back to the 1970-1972 Knapp Commission Inquiry (KPMG) in New York City, USA. With aims of reducing corruption within the New York Police Department (NYPD), the Commission suggested the use of “sting operations”, (the use of undercover officers), to simulate corruption opportunities for officers suspected of unethical behaviour. Since then, integrity testing for law enforcement has become a crucial internal control mechanism for police departments around the world. In 2011, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in the UK, invited Transparency International UK (TI UK) to commission an external review of a report written by ACPO itself entitled “Managing Police Integrity: ACPO Approach 2011”. Such are the lengths, democratic countries go to ensure the integrity of their law enforcement apparatus. There are similar integrity testing mechanisms for the Judiciary, the state sector, military and national security apparatus, in many countries.

Integrity testing is not only about preventing crime and corruption, but also upholding professional conduct, and values of the institution. Many women and girls in Sri Lanka are often reluctant to report a crime or concern to the police, fearing how they will be treated, judged and ostracised. Within the police service, like in many other branches of the state sector, bullying, abuse – both mental, physical, and sexual,  are well-known to the leadership, but ignored. Is it not high time for there to be a robust enforcement of codes of conduct, at least the ones that are already in place, if not new ones?

What are the, if any, testing that are conducted by local authorities, Sri Lankans should ask. Perhaps demand. The taxpayer has a right to question the State about the services they provide. And the State, over decades, has been failing in delivering law and order, with the very same officers who are tasked with crime prevention, mitigation and solving, ending up being perpetrators of crime. What’s more, they often get off the hook. We have all watched, unsurprised, on how lethargically the Police Commission and the Ministry of Law and Order, (or at times the Ministry of Defence, when the Police is under their purview) move on matters of integrity and professional conduct.

If Sri Lankans want a change, idling and waiting for the IMF or some foreign entity to deliver it, will not work. Change has to start from the community. We must first stop by, trying to buy our way out of a traffic ticket, and shun corruption. The public must begin to raise our voice about the integrity of all public services, and our policy makers. If we keep turning a blind eye to the elephant in the room, what will it say about our integrity?



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