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Sri Lanka: helping integrate humanitarian principles into police training, doctrine and practices

30-07-2013 Feature

In November 2011, the ICRC first offered to support the Sri Lanka Police Department (SLPD) in strengthening its public order management training and doctrine. Today, the joint training initiatives have reached over 3,500 police officers of different ranks across the island.

Initially, the ICRC began working with police training colleges in order to develop a pool of trainers. Simultaneously, a SLPD steering committee was set up and assigned the task of reviewing the departmental standing orders on public order management and proposing amendments to the document in line with international law and standards.

"The aim is to provide comprehensive training opportunities to officers in charge of police stations island-wide, as they are the first in line to respond to the public, and this should be seen as a long-term investment in the department and in the nation at large," says the inspector general of police N.K. Illangakoon.

Since the beginning of the programme, the ICRC and the SLPD have successfully conducted a series of activities that include round-table discussions with senior police officers; test lecturers; awareness seminars for senior officers; training-of-trainers; curriculum review workshops on public order management linked to the use of force and firearms. "To sustain the public order management training programme, we are in the process of reviewing the police standard procedures concerning public order management in consultation with the ministry of defence and the honourable attorney general", adds Mr Illangakoon.  

Chérine Pollini, the head of the ICRC delegation in Sri Lanka agrees. "As the ICRC's experience in other contexts demonstrates, training alone cannot serve to reform practices. To ensure sustainability, there has to be a corresponding revision of these long-held practices – that is to say revision of 'doctrine' - and considerable advancement in training methodologies and equipment used," she adds.

Today, Michael Dynes, the ICRC's regional police and security delegate and Sumedha De Silva, programme manager for police training, work closely with senior officers involved in the revision of the departmental standing orders, trainers and officers in charge of the SLPD. The purpose of the cooperation is to strengthen the SLPD's training and doctrine in relation to public order management.