Jul 31, 2021 Letters
On Friday July 02, 2021 Peeping Tom in an article in the Kaieteur News screamed, “Character assessment should form part of police recruitment.” In the article, Peeping Tom was very critical of the attitude and behaviour of several members of the Guyana Police Force and the negative effects on the public. The Peeper posited that a great many police ranks have serious attitude problems. He sighted many cases to back up his claim. He recommended that recruits must undergo details psychological and character assessment to ensure that they can be entrusted with the powers, which come with policing. The unacceptable attitude and behaviour by the police is not only the concern of Peeping Tom. Top Cop, Nigel Hoppie, at the recent Police Awards Ceremony at Eve Leary was concerned that 29 policemen were before the Courts with Criminal charges including murder, attempt murder, rape and other serious crimes. In addition, there are numerous complaints of unacceptable behaviour by policemen reported to the Police Complaints Authority, The Office of Professional Responsibility and the Police Service Commission. Acts of police misconduct appear to continue unabated. It is against this background that I am titillated to make another clarion call for the establishment of a ‘Behaviour Science Unit’ in the Police Force and to briefly comment on the recruitment and training in the GPF. Editor, please permit me a bit of space to do so.
No longer can you swear in a policeman, give him a badge and send him on the beat to perform duty. No longer can a policeman depend on his physical brawn and his political connections to survive on the job. A policeman must be adequately trained. It is imperative that he understands and appreciates the importance of good behaviour in order to efficiently and effectively carry out his mandate as set out in Section 3 (2) of the Police Act Chapter 16:01 and what society demands from its protectors.
During 1973, Harold Russell and Allan Beigel wrote, “The importance of understanding behaviour in the training of professional policemen is indisputable. Behaviour is the major phenomenon that the police officer must deal with. He must not only deal with the behaviour of criminals, but also the behaviour of the general public, the behaviour of his family, and his own behaviour. He can no longer regard the study of behaviour as the sole concern of the psychologist and psychiatrist. He must learn more about the behaviour and behavioural science in order to effectively and safely carry out his Job.”
Those words were relevant over half a century ago; they are even more apposite today for law enforcement officers. A good starting point to assess behaviour in the GPF as indicated by the Peeper is at the recruitment level. The present recruitment process is not geared to identify inappropriate behaviour traits or more so psychological behaviour.
The recruitment process appears to cater for quantity rather than quality. An applicant who is highly qualified but is psychopathic and others with unacceptable behavioural traits can easily be recruited into the Force because the recruitment system does not address behaviour. To address this unwanted entry into the GPF, the police should establish what is internationally known as Assessment Centre as part of its recruitment strategy.
Space does not permit me to go into great details about the operation of a Recruitment Centre but suffice to say that at the Centre applicants are exposed to a series of activities and or scenarios where behaviour is assessed by a team of highly trained assessors. Assessment Centre is nothing new. It was used by The Allies and the Axes during World War 11 to train their spies. Tinsley (2002) contends, “The assessment centre was and still is, one of the best methods available for selecting suitable candidates for either employment or advancement in law enforcement agencies.” The process will produce fewer recruits but will result in better quality ranks being enlisted in the Force. Several years ago during my groundings with my fellow senior Caribbean police officers in Jamaica, I attended an Assessment Centre conducted by the Jamaica Constabulary Staff College. During the activities an applicant who was a graduate from the University of the West Indies displayed some psychopathic traits. He was not selected for enlistment. Francis Forbes, the Head of the Staff College, who later became a Commissioner of Police said, “Him can come with him degree from UWI with honours, but if him a psycho, him can’t be a police.”
In assessing behaviour in the GPF one must not only deal with entry-level ranks, but with members of all the branches and divisions. Both junior and very senior ranks have been constantly displaying inappropriate and shocking behaviour. The Chief Justice ruling in the recent Calvin Brutus case against the Police Service Commission is very instructive. Grave acts of misconduct will continue to occur at all levels in the GPF if behaviour is not urgently nipped in the bud.
Here is where a Behavioural Science Unit can play a major role in identifying police with behavioural problems and establish Early Warning Systems (EWS) for preventing intervention to correct those problems. According to Arnold (2001), “Early Warning Systems (EWS) were developed as proactive tools and have been utilised by some law enforcement agencies with beneficial results.” These systems have, to some degree, provided a “heads up” regarding behavioural problems with police officers and afford the agency an opportunity to implement remedial action. However, as Rhyons and Brewster cautioned, “An early warning system is not a substitute for good supervision. Instead, it is a tool designed to help a good supervisor become better.”
In the area of training and learning UNESCO’s imperatives for learning is very instructive. It rests firmly on four pillars and is applicable to the GPF particularly to address behaviour. They are: Learn to live together; Learn to be, Learn to do and Learn to learn. The Behavioural Science Unit can also sit nicely on those pillars. Therefore, the following areas and many more recommended by UNESCO must be addressed with the police. They are: effective communication, conflict resolution, anger management, cultural sensitivity, cultural awareness, self-esteem, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, problem solving, people skill, ability to research and analyse, effective investigation, effectively dealing with people and policing multi-cultural and diverse communities. These areas, if sufficiently inculcated in the minds of all members of the Force will go a far way towards promoting acceptable behaviour by ranks at all levels of the GPF.
Over two decades ago, I graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy. My interaction with their Behavioural Science Unit then, and thereafter, enabled me to deal effectively with members of the public in the execution of my duties as a law enforcement officer and in my relationship with my friends and family. I am confident that the creation of a similar unit in the GPF will influence excellent behaviour among all members of the Force and will go a far way towards promoting public trust and confidence in the police.
Assistant Commissioner of Police
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