JAMAICA Constabulary Force (JCF) Chaplain Bishop Gary Welsh is appealing for more persons to join the JCF's chaplaincy to help counsel the approximately 15,000 police officers who, he said, undergo stress on a daily basis.
The chaplain's appeal comes against the recent killing of a heavily pregnant woman in St Thomas. The 27 year-old woman, Kay-Ann Lamont, was allegedly shot and killed by Corporal Dwayne Smart on September 1 after she resisted arrest for using indecent language. She was shot twice in the head.
"Police officers experience elevated stress levels. Just the fact that you are exposed to danger and you have to put your life on the line to save others, you are constantly in harm's way. Even in what would appear a normal situation, you are just driving in a patrol car, you are expecting something to happen. Just that thought of something happening now puts you under stress and you just want somebody to bounce that off on," he told the Jamaica Observer recently at the conclusion of a World Suicide Prevention Day Seminar at the Whydham Hotel in Kingston.
Bishop Welsh said that the unit currently has eight chaplains, 40 peer counsellors, two psychiatrist, three psychologist, four social workers and 150 pastors, they would ideally need another 150 more persons to assist with counselling.
"We are firstly looking for pastors. If you have a heart to care for people, you can help us; but it would really help if you have some kind of exposure to the behavioural sciences, psychology and so forth. We could really do with that kind of help," he said.
He said that while some police officers do go overboard in carrying out their duties, this should not be used to judge the entire force, since the majority of police officers usually help to diffuse hostile situations on a daily basis without the use of their firearms.
"We are asking for some forgiveness that we have one incident — isolated incident. It's just one too many; but understand that we have had several opportunities where we could have done the same thing and we had exercised restraint and controlled our conduct, because of our training," he said.
He said that the JCF was constantly reviewing its policies and practices and continues to sensitise officers about the use of force and the respect for human life and dignity.
"We are just encouraging our officers to apply what they have learnt. We are not going to set watchmen over them, we are just saying to them, we have trained you well, when you get into a combat situation, put into practice what you know," he said.