If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in all my years shooting for NGO’s is that the successful NGOs¬† are the ones that create “sustainable” long term projects. To be sustainable, projects in countries like Sri Lanka¬† must be based on “local efforts”. The Asia Foundation’s program of helping the police to integrate with the community is one such successful program.

Here’s what the Asia Foundation’s website states about their program, aimed at helping police promote peace. (text courtesy of The Asia Foundation)…..

Successful Asia Foundation police reforms inspire local effort

Reconciliation and security are recognized as musts in Sri Lanka, and the police forces are in a unique position to contribute. In fact, the Inspector General of Police, in a stark departure from the forces’ history of rigid, armed policing, rolled out a vision in 2010 to make the organization people-friendly, professional, and in service to all ethnicities, including the Tamil minority. In order to assist systemically in security, safety, and crime prevention, our local staff looked to the successes of previous Asia Foundation police reform programs in other countries. Concluding that mutual trust between officers and communities must be carefully cultivated, particularly in multi-ethnic communities, they designed and launched a localized pilot program. The pilot includes forums where residents and community leaders share needs for security and protection; neighborhood watch strategies; and conflict and crime mapping.

Twenty-four community police forums, in partnership with 14 police stations, are now active. The work builds on a pioneering initiative begun in 2006 to teach police officers Tamil. Nearly 900 police officers have received Tamil-language training and been posted in Tamil majority areas including the Northern and Eastern Provinces and multi-ethnic districts across the country, progressing the vision of the Inspector General of Police to have a third of the police force speak Tamil.

So, I’m here in Sri Lanka working with The Asia Foundation’s staff, traveling around, photographing their police programs in the central, south and eastern areas of the country. I’ve been putting on a lot of miles driving from place to place, and the Sri Lankan countryside is indeed beautiful. Yesterday, we visited a police training academy and I made some photos of the police during a training session. For many of the shots, I chose my 70-200mm f 2.8, using a wide open aperture to selectively focus on one particular face (or foot).

I also had the opportunity to photograph police, bike “patrols” where police use bicycles to visit community members. A bike puts them more closely in touch with people, than if they were to arrive on a motorcycle or in a car. I spent a lot of time running both ahead and behind officers to get the shots I needed. What a workout!

On minute it was dry, the next it was a downpour….and I love photography in the rain, so I just kept on shooting from underneath an awning. Using a slow shutter speed I tried to accentuate the rain. It was the perfect opportunity to photograph a police officer assisting a civilian with something as simple as sharing an umbrella. The image demonstrates the “heart” of the program itself….to promote good relations!


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