Since May 2, 2013 when I assumed the position of Head of the Strategic Management Department of the Guyana Police Force, I have been approached on several occasions by acquaintances and other persons stating that they miss my writings, and wanting to know why I no longer contribute to the letter columns. My response invariably is that I believe any continuation of those efforts might be viewed as self-serving – particularly if I am to write on the subject of law enforcement for which I believe I am eminently qualified. That thought notwithstanding, I have decided to make whatever contribution I can to any debate of national interest.
I am a strong advocate that one should do whatever one can to clear up misunderstandings occasioned from misinformation, deliberate or otherwise. I also strongly believe that the Guyana Police Force can do with all the help that it reasonably can get from all stakeholders. What I do not support is whitewashing faults and misconduct which can lead to continued infractions of policies, procedures and orders. I recall suggesting in 1994 that members of the GPF involved in the use of deadly force should be given the opportunity to be psychologically evaluated and counselled. This, in my view, would serve to provide policymakers with a clearer understanding of specific and general situational factors where deadly force is used. The purpose was not to make the rank(s) involved feel that the process was anything other than an attempt to arrive at informed operational policies and standard operating procedures based upon actual experiences, and an appreciation of the stress in those experiences. It was not proposed as a punitive measure.
Having said that Editor, it has been my experience that not enough effort is being made to highlight the perils inherent in law enforcement. Concomitantly there seems to be no adequate system in place to assist ranks in coping with traumatic events. As is known, I once saw active service as a policeman but stressful events of those days cannot be compared to what obtains today in terms of their intensity and frequency. Which makes the cogent argument for a structured programme to address the psychological needs for our men and women in the uniformed services. This is all the more important in light of the fact that stress may well be the most important factor which determines the outcome in situations of conflict and which places policing among the most stressful of occupations.
It might come as a surprise that once upon a time the life partner of policemen were nurses. What is not surprising is that operatives in both professions operate in a sometimes hazardous, life-threatening environments, which include dealing with the mentally unstable, or persons who may be chronically ill with contagious infection. What makes policing challenging is the public’s expectation of protection through professional service from a body of men and women respectful of the integrity and human rights of the beneficiaries of that service and protection. Tyler et al. (1997) argue that if people do not believe that they are treated with dignity and respect by operatives of the criminal justice system, they are far less likely to perceive any part of the criminal justice system as fair or legitimate.
Interestingly, Jaramillo et al on “The effect of law enforcement stress on organizational commitment”, argue that the monopolistic structure that is the police may be responsible for the poor quality service from lack of competition. It is in that regard that it might be a good idea to consider their suggestion to examine several stressors intrinsic to role conflict; role ambiguity; supervisor support; group cohesiveness; and promotion opportunity. These, it is felt, if addressed, could contribute to increased job satisfaction and reduce the attrition rate, which bedevil organisations of similar nature. It is therefore incumbent on the administration to go the extra distance to positively influence the work environment as one factor towards controlling behavior and managing outputs.
Editor, these are but a few thoughts for which healthy debate could provide a better understanding of issues, and which hopefully can generate solutions to the problems and causes of stress which impact negatively on both the citizenry and members of the Guyana Police Force.
Patrick E. Mentore
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