Train Police Officers to deal with domestic violence issues

Dear Editor,
The first batch of Police officers recently graduating from the “COPSQUAD2000” initiative on how to handle domestic violence should set the stage for the re-engineering of Police training.
With this training should come a DV unit that would ensure structure, monitoring, evidence-gathering, evaluation, and accountability. Such a unit should incorporate:
• Taking every report seriously, and eliminating Police laughing at, and mocking, complainants, causing them to be fearful and angry; ridiculing them, and telling them to go home and make up with their spouses. This kind of behaviour has resulted in too many victims simply refusing to report to the Police, claiming it’s a waste of time.
As well, who knows how many lives may have been lost by this attitude? To be noted also is that domestic violence is significant in Police families, but is deeply hidden, as victims do not think reporting to the Police station would get them anywhere – a perspective fostered by the perpetrators.
Often, victims seek escape by migrating illegally to other countries, but The Caribbean Voice is also aware of many instances in which the perpetrators – Police officers – abused and threatened families of their victims.
•Interaction with complainants, using the right language and tone – perhaps emphatic communication – should be added to the “COPSQUAD2000” training. The expectation is to eliminate the language currently used, as referenced in the above paragraph.
•Investigations and follow-up that would see perpetrators prosecuted and reports not ducked because of bribery, as often happens; or Police themselves not acting as mediators after perpetrators buy them off. As well, consideration should be given to a mechanism that would ensure that cases still go to court, even if victims refuse to testify; and for this to be possible, necessary photos, medical assessments and eyewitness interviews ought to be part of the investigation, which must be timely.
The fact is that victims are sometimes bought off, or threatened along with their families, or both.
•Safety planning advise and referrals for needed services. Safety planning needs to be disseminated, as it provides victims with the capacity to seek escape and assistance, while keeping themselves and children safe and protected. And the services available, especially those offered by various Ministries, need to be known and utilised by victims. As it is, this is not the case currently.
Police also need to be trained to deal with the mentally-ill, as is the case in Jamaica, where there is also a push to have selected Police personnel trained as emergency medical technicians to enhance their ability to help the mentally-ill. Guyana should also incorporate same as part of the mental health training. In fact, Police training should significantly focus on case care management models for mental health overall.
As well, isn’t it time for the Police to create a Child Abuse Unit within the Force? The Police are already part of the inter-disciplinary team that works along with the child advocacy centres, so it would be an extension of that training to ensure such officers are available at every Police station.
We also suggest training of Police to handle sexual abuse. For one, they should ensure that all complainants of rape and incest be immediately taken to hospitals, where one would expect that rape kits are available for the relevant tests. They should also be able to take needed photos to be used as evidence, and urgently get counselling for complainants.
As well, they must be able to use the right language and tone to question victims, and this is where emphatic communication comes into play. Perhaps domestic violence and sexual abuse can be combined into a Victim Services and Support Unit.
We also suggest that a drug and alcohol abuse and addiction initiative, such as would be implemented in Trinidad & Tobago in partnership with the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), include the Police. Such a model can be implemented in partnership with NGOs, CBOs, governmental agencies, and possibly the Private Sector.
And to ensure that the Police are mentally and emotionally equipped to do their job, may we suggest that each division have at least two counsellors along with mobile counselling units in each of the seven divisions, so the Police can receive psychosocial support year-round on an ongoing basis? This would ensure that suicide ideation, domestic violence, sexual harassment and alcohol and drugs’ issues are addressed in a timely manner, while Police are provided with the wherewithal to enhance self-esteem, stress management, coping skills, relationship issues, abuse of every shade, and work conditions.

Caribbean Voice