Excerpted from the Memoirs of Rtd. Senior DIG Kingsley Wickramasuriya
We were all were trained in thrift as well. As we reported at the Training School to begin our course, we were asked to open an accounts book and keep track of our income and expenditure It had to be submitted to our supervisor for scrutiny and advice. Any unnecessary expenditure would be frowned upon and the officer concerned given a rap. So, thrift has now become a lifelong virtue (even in family life) and continues to date.
The final examination was the swimming test. All of us passed the test except for one or two. Those who failed it were kept back for a further period of training while the others were qualified to pass out of the Police Training School.. Then came the passing out parade with Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the Prime Minister at the time, as the chief guest. We had a grand passing out parade under the leadership of Superintendent of Police Werapitiya, the Director of Training.
On passing out from the Sri Lanka Police College, the three of us Probationary ASPs were transferred to the Colombo Division in February 1964 under the Superintendent of Police (IDM) Van Twest for Divisional Training. He was a good sportsman particularly interested in football and did much with the clubs in Colombo to promote the game during his spare time.
Whilst in Colombo the three of us were billeted at the Senior Police Officers Mess (SPOM) and taken to various points of duty with transport provided by the Transport Division. Each one of us was first attached to a Police Station in the Colombo Division under the Superintendent of Police (Colombo). I was attached to Borella Police Station and the other two to two other different Police Stations.
We were rotated through every branch at the police station and learned the work under the supervision of the OIC of the police station. The training included reading the various Information Books maintained at the police station, making orders, investigating petty complaints, and crime inquiries, making crime files, going on foot patrols at night, and learning the administration of the police station.
We worked for a week in each branch. Working closely with the other ranks in the various branches gave us a good insight into the working of a police station, the methods followed in investigations, shortcuts taken and the reasons for that. It also allowed us to learn firsthand the thinking of the police officer at the grass-root level. What was obvious was that what guided them in their work was traditional practices that were handed down from generation to generation in the police hierarchy without being questioned.
Some of them were good practices whilst the others were questionable. For instance, crime investigation was old-fashioned and had no scientific basis. Much emphasis was placed on extracting evidence by the use of force rather than resorting to collecting scientific evidence. The result was sometimes taking the wrong person to task and causing them physical harm, to which I was a helpless witness at least on one occasion. That day I learned the lesson of the danger of using ‘third degree’ methods in investigations. To cover up, Police had to resort to many unsavory tactics to save themselves from the legal repercussions. It was not worth the effort put into investigations. I was to realize this over and over again later in my professional life.
At the same time, it was fun to see how things worked at the ground level. Night patrols were sent out on foot in pairs in the evenings lasting for several hours. A patrol is expected to visit many vantage points covering several miles signing the patrol books kept at those points. I too had to join one of these patrols a couple of times. The officers on patrol would walk trying to reach a target at a given time at a suitable pace.
To break the monotony of the journey they would drop in at a wayside tea boutique and spend some time there having a cup of tea and a short eat (vadai) and proceed quietly along. Though with two stars on the shoulder as a Probationary ASP I was no different to them. They would invite me too to join them. That was how the night patrols were kept going.
From the very beginning, I would start questioning everything in practice before I accepted what was eing done as correct. The rank and file were generally amused by my curiosity. Once on the way to the police station, I saw a constable on point duty directing traffic from a platform in the middle of a junction. Noticing that the way he was directing traffic was not the usual method, I stopped and proceeded to show him the correct way to direct traffic. Later on, I learned that there were some sour comments in certain quarters over what I had done as if it was not the ‘done thing’.
After this training, we were attached to the Central Garage to undergo training in driving heavy and light vehicles under Superintendent of Police (Gamini) Jayasinghe. He was a very charismatic officer and well-trained horseman. We admired his skill in horsemanship. In the meanwhile, we had our horse-riding lessons as well at the Police Riding School of the Mounted Divisions. Morning hours were spent at the Riding School, thereafter at the office of the SP Colombo.
At the Riding School we were put through our paces in the various riding techniques — the trot, bumping trot, canter, and galloping. For galloping, we were taken to the Galle Face Green. In the final stages of the training, route marches were organized. We rode from the Riding School to Nugegoda. We were accompanied by ASPs S. Vamadevan and Douglas Ranmutugala attached to the Colombo Division. That was also a very pleasant experience during our training.
With that our Divisional training was over and we were ready to be posted outstations. So, in May 1965 1 was posted to Kandy Division while the other two were posted elsewhere. Before being posted outstation, we had to buy our cars, for ASPs were not entitled to government transport like at present. So, we had to organize a car loan from the Department that would be deducted in installments from our salary.
To get a loan we had to find a guarantor to sign the application. Finding guarantors was a difficult exercise as many did not like to be responsible for repaying somebody else’s loan.. It was with the greatest difficulty that I finally found a guarantor, the SP Colombo. With this loan I managed to find a used Peugeot 203 that later proved to be a white elephant with many a repair required along the way.