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And, what of the wellbeing of police officers?

Published: 
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS

I live here and for my own wellbeing I would rather that T&T has a well-educated and highly-trained, professional police service. It would be to my personal benefit and could mean better security for the entire nation.

It is imperative though, that such a force also has the continuous benefit of interventions in their personal lives and everyday difficulties in order to ensure a desirable level of good well-being.

This, to me, is mandatory given what must be the high stress levels of those who are required to do our policing.

As a people, we depend on the police to provide a sense of security and therefore, law enforcement is important to our overall well-being. We are no different from any other jurisdiction in that expectation, after all, the motto promises “To Protect and Serve.”

It follows then, that our police service is expected to be populated with officers who risk their lives on a daily basis for citizens.

But to be committed to risking their lives, I also believe as a State we should be committing our best resources—wages, salaries, equipment, training, mentoring, psychosocial support and other benefits—to ensure we provide the best circumstances to the service in order to get the best results.

We should also have rigid systems of evaluation, including assessment of psychological fitness, for entry into such service.

But as yet, after granting 12 acting extensions to Commissioner of Police (Ag CoP) Stephen Williams, we cannot even decide on the appointment of someone we deem suitable to lead the service.

In fact, we seem unable to even resolve how we should interview and hire a CoP.

I’m in my corner wondering if anyone else thinks such actions work against the stability of the force and the security of the country.

And before I could think of someone to ask, the service is again brought into disrepute by another senior officer. This one blatantly breaks the rules choosing to ignore protocols in his effort to groom the T&T Police Service Next Top Model in his own uniform.

This followed so many other questionable incidences including the recent Gunsmoke action by two officers who took their private disputes publicly, with one officer now dead having succumbed to his injuries in a 28-rounds shootout in a public space.

These are some of my contemplations while examining what I consider the less-thanfavourable response by police to the plight of the mentally ill who require intervention.

And it helped that simultaneously with my assessment of the force in this matter there arose a number of other issues which showed the police “in a bad light,” according to one of its seniors.

First, in trying to determine whether the police service had a response for the issue of mental health and whether they had training to treat with the interventions they are called upon to perform for the mentally ill, I am left to conclude that the service is devoid of appropriate training.

There appears no consensus or even an answer to the question among the top brass, including those with ministerial portfolios.

Secondly, I began considering then that if we lack appropriate training for de-escalation of those presenting with acute mental illnesses, what is to be our fate for the foreseeable future when police respond to families asking for help with relatives who are acting violently? Are those who are ill and acting out mostly going to end up dead? Shot by police officers?

Thirdly, if prejudice runs as high in the population as I suspect it does here, then, who is ensuring that the police have a more empathetic view of the mentally ill? Sometimes I hear people speaking of others who are different to them—the mentally ill, the criminals incarcerated and those running wild—and you get a sense that people think some people’s lives are worth less than others.

What if this is the same prejudice that pervades the police service? Still, my contemplation ran deeper. I began to question whether our current concept of policing recognises “the importance of balancing the need to protect people with the need to protect and preserve individual rights?”

And finally, in all fairness to those in the service who work hard to fulfil their duty to us, what are the systems and processes in place to treat with the well-being of those charged to protect us?

Where have we addressed continuous physical and psychological compulsory care for those whom we ask to bend to every circumstance, from domestic disputes to drugs and gun warfare?

Could it be that we are expecting people possibly in worse emotional circumstances than ours to provide us with security and protection?

n CAROLINE C RAVELLO is a strategic communications and media professional and a public health practitioner. She holds an MA with Merit in Mass Communications (University of Leicester) and is a Master of Public Health With Distinction (The UWI). Write to: [email protected] gmail.com

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