TRINIDAD and Tobago is 30 years late with its call for trained psychologists to assist police officers, Criminologist and Criminal Psychologist Renee Cummings has said.
Cummings described this three-decade lag behind international standards as “sad”.
She made the statement is an interview with the Express in response to a call by President Anthony Carmona over the weekend for psychologists to help police officers cope with the mental and emotional pains they face daily.
“Of course, I agree with the President and I’ve been making the same call in the media for years, but what’s sad is that since the 1980s police agencies across the world have been staffed with full-time police psychologists,” Cummings said.
Cummings said the initiative known as “professional policing”, which seems to be a major challenge for local law enforcement, is “the most basic human resource requirement in 21st Century policing”.
She said since the 1980s police psychology was recognised as a distinct field.
Police work is one of the top rated professions for “job stress”, Cummings said.
She said it was “one of the most emotionally stringent and stressful professions in the world”.
“Staying psychologically fit is critical for police officers but police officers are also some of the most resistant to psychological support,” she said.
“For the average officer, the hardest part of the job is to admit that he/she has a problem and the second hardest is the willingness to get help,” Cummings said.
She described this as the “great irony” of the job.
Cummings said psychological sessions for police officers should be mandatory.
“Yes they should be mandatory but at intervals depending on the jobs the officers hold. For some every six months for others every year,” she said.
“For undercover, detectives and special unit members such as special weapons and tactical response teams or teams that handle hostage negotiations it is critical to determine if a current officer is a good fit for such duties,” Cummings said.
While she admitted that there are counsellors and social workers who currently assist police officers, Cummings said it is time for the TTPS “to embrace a more professional approach to policing”.
“A best practice protocol to peer support and social service delivery for officers is a prerequisite to professional policing in the 21st century,” she said.
“Implementing a best practice peer support protocol is critical to the emotional well-being and psychological health of officers and the TTPS,” Cummings said.