Sparing a thought for police under pressure
President Anthony Carmona’s expressions of concern for police officers under unique stress are both timely and large-hearted. The head of state urged a spirit of empathy toward police officers inescapably deployed as front-line responders to ever more bloody and widespread crime.
For their efforts, the police enjoy no guarantee of gratitude from a public convinced they should be doing more, and gaining better results, in the much-touted “war” on crime. Indeed, the police often appear irrelevant.
In recognisable patterns, gun murders keep being committed. Investigators appear incapable of gaining any effective intelligence or insight into the outlaw forces and practices whose results, counted in dead bodies, repeatedly mark the success of a mysterious, criminal enemy.
Public frustration over such a state of affairs is deep and long-standing. It has taken the President to speak up with feeling for police officers, whose work he described as “fraught with great sacrifice” and emotional “wear and tear”.
Mr Carmona directed focus on a little-regarded aspect of a tragic national drama, which is how police officers must be affected: “The daily ritual of picking up bodies of young men takes its toll on us all, but moreso the police officer. And this may well be impacting on his dedication and morality.”
Lamenting that the loss of young lives may be “trivialised by being characterised as ‘gang-related’,” the President deplored any tendency to regard such loss as “a statistic”.
He might have noted that the “gang-related” characterisation originated with police sources relied upon by reporters.
Regardless of the brilliance or otherwise of their accomplishments, it must be remembered that officers daily put their lives on the line, and incur costs in personal emotional distress, all on behalf of a little-regarding society. It is from the head of state that this reminder came. He called for “clinical psychologists to deal with (the) mental and emotional pain suffered daily by those in the trenches”, and for improved financial support to relatives of officers fallen in the line of duty.
The President advisedly stopped short of holding the police blameless. Drawing on his experience in the DPP’s office and also as a High Court judge, he deplored police cutting of corners that undermines successful prosecution of criminal cases.
He might have added that police do themselves no favours by gaining an image of being untrustworthy, or slow-to-move recipients of crime intelligence. Again, the association of the police with predatory, and legally questionable, “wrecking” of parked cars, in locales with scarce or no parking facilities, hardly disposes people in favour of officers formally mandated to “protect and serve”.
In repairing areas where police-public relations may have been broken, the President has done his part. It’s left for in-service officers, at all levels, including the routinely self-serving Police Social Welfare Association, to reciprocate, by action.