I had walked into a police station at Leicester City in the United Kingdom to interview the city’s first Asian police chief. While seated in the front office waiting for him, the happenings inside led me to visualize a comparison between the Leicester City police station and a Sri Lankan police station. My comparison was not on the state of the buildings or the interior settings. It was rather on the manner in which visitors were treated. I saw a youth. His teeth probably had not seen a tooth brush for months. He was shabbily clothed and appeared to be a substance addict. He was making inquiries from a police officer regarding some matter. The police officer was so polite that he addressed him ‘sir’ every time he replied. Sir is a word of respect in the UK. The police officer was upholding the dignity of the visitor.
Walk into a Sri Lankan police station. The first thing we experience is an adrenaline rush, even if the purpose of the visit is for a civil matter such as obtaining a no-crime certificate for a job interview. Especially, if the person appeared unkempt and is from a povertystricken area, the welcome would often be contemptuous and feudalistic. If in the US, the crisis over policing is largely racism, in Sri Lanka it is largely a class issue, with the police allegedly adopting a different yardstick when dealing with the rich and the powerful.
The dark and smelly lock-up rooms and the filth in vernacular give the police stations the ambience of a horror house. The unwelcome atmosphere is so mainstream that one wonders whether police officers are taught brutish behaviour and profanity during training.
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