Looking back at Sri Lanka Police

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By 2017-11-12

By Bhaya sandamali Amarasinghe

It is a fact that Sri Lanka Police have come this far after experiencing many ordeals and tragic incidents. Constable Sabhan is considered to be the first policeman who died in an encounter on 21 March 1864 when he was on duty to arrest Utuvankande Sura Saradiel alias Deekirikewage Sardiel at Mawanella. However, before that, a police constable died when he was shot at by a criminal.

This took place in July 1847 at Kurunegala when a raid was conducted to arrest criminal Iyna Lebbe who had been arrested earlier but had escaped. Though the name of the assistant to the constable was recorded, the real heroic constable's name was not included in historical records. Even prior to this killing, when reserve police constable George Fonart tried to apprehend Saradiel, he too died.
Sabhan's son Satar Sabhan joined the Police after his father's death, and retired as a Police Sergeant in 1903.
It was Governor Thomas Wetland who, during British rule, introduced police operations in the coastal areas in 1806. Search and arrest powers were vested in them.

The first gazette notification regarding traffic control was issued on 1 January 1806. The law that was introduced was that vehicles shall travel along the left side. Under the enactment 1806 clause 14, Police were detailed for duty at Pettah. Twenty eight Constables were detailed for duty on 15 streets in Pettah. Chief Constable Charles Cart was in charge of Fort. He was entrusted with the duties of apprehending suspects and vagrants in the nights.

With permission of village headman, beggars were permitted to operate from 7.00 a.m. until 5.00 p.m. on Saturdays. Travelling along roads and staying on verandas after 10.00 p.m. were prohibited.
It is especially noteworthy that the constables were not paid a salary. They only received 10 % of the value of stolen goods recovered from the thieves. It was the responsibility of the city dwellers to build walls around the houses and clearing shrubs which may be used by thieves to hide.
Gambling was forbidden in Fort, Colombo, and licences were issued only to 3 gambling dens. Cock fighting for wagers took place at Kayman's Gate. Though prostitution was banned because of the foreign soldiers, it was difficult to stop. The first case against prostitution was filed against 12-year- old Elizabeth Haley.
SL's first Police Superintendent was Thomas Oswin.

In 1825, the British monetary system of pounds, shillings and pence was introduced. Oswin's monthly salary was 300 sterling pounds. The salary of a Chief Constable was 3 pounds 15 shilling, and that of a Constable was 2 pounds 5 shillings. The population of Colombo during that period was 39,000.

The reserve Police Service was introduced to control Small Pox. They were each paid 6 pence per day for their services. After Oswin, John Dean Wood followed by John Delshila were appointed as Police Superintendents.
The first Police uniform was recommended in 1844 on the intervention of SP Tolpaper.

In 1847, the eradication of stray dogs started and Police Officers were trained to shoot them.
A Police Station was established in Kurunegala in 1854 and in 1855, stations were opened at Kalutara and Thihariya. In 1857 Yattagoda got a Police Station. By 1855, the number of Police Stations in the island had swelled to 225.

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