Community policing through bicycle patrolling in Sri Lanka: an incipient post-conflict strategy

Research reports and studies
December 2014
Victoria Chambers, Lisa Denney and Kanniya Pieris
View photos taken by researcher Victoria Chambers as part of this case study. 

In May – June 2014 The Asia Foundation and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) undertook a case study of bicycle patrolling as part of wider community policing in Sri Lanka under the ‘Securing Communities’ project at ODI. The full case study was not able to be published publically, so this document presents selected findings of the case study in order to begin to fill the gap in the literature on policing in Sri Lanka. 

The case study aimed to understand the role of bicycle patrolling within the broader context of community policing in Sri Lanka and to examine how it has developed, its objectives, effects and ongoing challenges. The findings include:

  • Histories of colonialism and conflict, as well as centralised institutional structures and social cleavages have shaped community policing in Sri Lanka.
  • While the key objectives of improving police–community relations and reducing crime are shared by different actors, emphasis varies.
  • Community policing and bicycle patrolling are increasing trust at the local level, making people feel safer and enabling local problem-solving. However, they are not yet transforming broader policing culture.
  • The effectiveness of community policing is limited by challenges such as the isolation of community policing from wider policing functions, under-trained recruits and linguistic difficulties.