Checkpoint Courtesy : Police vs. Army & Air Force

I’ve often been told that Army and Air force checkpoints are more courteous compared to Police checkpoints. But never really had the chance to compare, probably because there are none on my regular route.

Between Sunday night and yesterday however, I was stopped at 3 checkpoints, manned by personnel of each of the above forces and the difference in manner was stark.

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Checkpoint 1 – Air force

Late Sunday evening I was rushing to hospital because my father had had an accident and I was asked to come as fast as I could because he was about to be taken in for immediate surgery. Imagine my agitation when we were stopped at a checkpoint just seconds away from the hospital. But I was amazed by how polite these guys were. It was hard to resent them for the delay when they were making such an effort to be gracious. Their ‘good evenings’ and ‘thank yous’ were pleasant and genuine.

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Checkpoint 2 – Army

Same night my brother and I were driving around Colombo well past midnight looking for a particular drug my father needed but was out of stock everywhere.  In my hurry to leave I had left my handbag behind along with my wallet and ID.  Again these guys were really nice and did not detain us or hassle us in anyway when we explained the rush and why I didn’t have any form of identification on me.

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Checkpoint 3 – Police

Yesterday I slipped out of a meeting to go see my father and the trishaw I took was stopped at a Police checkpoint. Trying to save time, I took my ID out the moment they waved the stop sign and promptly handed it to the policeman who approached from my side. For the next ten minutes he held my ID with not as much as a glance while attempting to make small talk in the most pathetic manner. His questions were irrelevant and inconsequential and all the while he kept pressing himself closer to me until he was literally breathing in my face. It was ugly, unpleasant and bordering on sexual harassment. I kept my cool simply because I couldn’t afford to waste time on a showdown or worse get myself hauled off to the police station. Finally the trishaw driver who was equally outraged asked if we could leave and this cop very reluctantly removed himself from the trishaw and let us go.

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I agree that standing out on the road all day is no picnic and I would understand if these people were bad tempered or curt. But surely that is no excuse for this kind of behavior. They go around arresting school children for holding hands in public but these perverts can do whatever they want because they are in uniform.

The worst part however is that nothing can be done. I’m sure there is no point in complaining about this cop because they would simply protect their own. So what do you do? Who do you turn to?

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25 thoughts on “Checkpoint Courtesy : Police vs. Army & Air Force

  1. i cant say i remember being stopped at an army checkpoint, but most definitely the airforce check points are much more polite, well-mannered and professionial when compared with the police checkpoints..

    interesting note about the arrests with regards to holding hands.. good point..

  2. By far the worst treatment I have received at checkpoints has universally been at police checkpoints, one particularly nasty random check down Thimbirigasaya Road comes to mind. The cops in Sri Lanka are pretty much rubbish compared to the forces, I just love their posters saying they are ‘people friendly.’

    Hope your dad is ok!:)

  3. What i don’t get is why the cops have to be so cussed when the army and air force guys also spend as much time standing at checkpoints these days?

    IMHO, the cops are so used to abusing the power of their uniform that it has become a habit for most of them. Just walking into a random police station anywhere in the country will prove this to you. Cops tend to view everybody other than a cop as a suspect or worse, as a criminal, so any woman they come across has the potential to be of loose morals in their eyes.

  4. G, guess i’m not the only one!

    N, people friendly my foot! and thanks my dad is recovering. slow but steady.

    TKRP, true. it just sucks that there is no authority above them we can complain to.

  5. Completely agree with the post. Been stopped at all three checkpoints and the only ones who are intent on harassing people are the police ones. Its pathetic how they abuse their power, and very rarely do you hear of incidents likes this about any of the forces.

    Unfortunately, we live in a country where unless you know someone with clout, goons like this get away with anything. You always hope that the hierarchy deals with stuff like this when they get appointed, but I guess thats the least of their worries.

    Hope your dads ok, and gets well soon. =)

  6. Hope ur dad is ok now.

    Yes, I have high regards for armed forces compared to Police.

    A few examples – 1. Navy checkpoint at Pamankada bridge (120 route)
    2. All checkpoints near and around Katunayake Airport manned by Airforce

  7. Danny, he’s ok now thanks. and you are right if anyone takes action then they must have some power of their own. nothing changes with new appointments.

    Su, thanks he’s ok. good to have you back btw. hope H 1 & 2 are good 🙂

  8. Glad your dad is all better now, and I agree that the police at check points are boorish and annoying… that is, until I lost my NIC, and got the new one to say “doctor”. Everyone is very polite to me now, and sometimes i wonder if i deserve all that respect! 🙂

  9. Yeah, personnel of the three forces are much better IMO. I’ve only met one copper who actually said good morning during a traffic stop 🙂

    Glad to hear that your dad is ok. All the best 🙂

  10. Thing is, the cops are sort of the very bottom of the pecking order. The military treat them as a joke, the politicians and civil servants and anyone in the administration treat them like peons, and the general public just see them as a nuisance. Plus they’re paid crap and largely not looked after very well while on duty. For example, constables on duty outside their home posting are housed in temples or schools, sleeping on mats, scrounging for food. Often cops — even in Colombo — who are on late night traffic or security details, are expected to make their own way back to their billets at the end of a shift. Since there’s almost no public transport at that time, they’ve got to beg or demand lifts from the public, or walk — regardless of the distance. And there’s almost zero chance of an honest and dedicated cop ever getting anywhere in the force. So they just take it out on anyone less powerful than themselves.

    The entire police force has to be gutted and restructured from top to bottom, from the IGP to PC Bandara. Until someone with the balls, will and power comes along and does it, nothing will change.

    1. David, agree that the system is crap and they are not motivated to do any better. on the other hand that is all the more reason they should work harder to earn some respect.

      1. That’s like asking trishaw drivers to drive better. It’s not gonna happen under the present system. Just like SF had to make the Army rethink everything, someone has to do that for the police. But with the cops, the prob is far deeper. It needs a total rebuilding of the force. And you can’t rebuild without knocking down the rotten structure that’s there now.

  11. fuck the police!

    ahem, yeah. once was stopped in a trishaw at around 2AM heading out of Colombo because we had put the covers down while it wasn’t raining. it was a police truck, they asked us for our ID’s and where we were heading at that time etc. since we spoke in English they immediately started treating us a little differently and tried to make pretty much anything we said about where we were going sound shady and suspect. they held us there for at least 10 minutes, threatening to take us to the shed or to our parents. after painfully clarifying everything in Sinhala, and without any bribes we managed to get through.

    Later, 4AM the same day we’re heading back. The same truck goes past us again! This time we have the covers up, and we could see the policemen inside asking us to stop, but the trishaw driver couldn’t be fucked and drove on.

    the police are fucking filth.

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