POLICE Commissioner Owen Ellington has instructed members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to look out for behavioural shifts among their numbers, as he pledged to place "increased prominence" on the well-being of the men and women under his charge.
"While we build our professionalism, I am placing increased prominence on the well-being of members. Policing by its very nature is a physically and mentally challenging occupation," Ellington wrote in this week Force Orders circulated to members of the JCF.
"I have tasked all divisional commanders, all supervisors, and all the leadership of the organisation to pay special attention to the welfare of members. All members must be attuned to any shift in the behavioural patterns of colleagues, and when a change is observed your duty is to share that information with those who can help," Ellington wrote.
The commissioner's direction appeared to be prompted by the shooting death of 27-year-old Kay-Ann Lamont in Yallahs, St Thomas, earlier this month and the injuring of her sister. Lamont, who was eight months pregnant, was shot in the middle of the town square following a struggle with Corporal Dwight Smart who had attempted to arrest her for using expletives.
Smart's superiors at the Yallahs Police Station expressed surprise at the churchman's actions and said they noticed no changes in his behaviour leading up to the incident. Still, some residents of St Thomas told the Jamaica Observer during a demonstration the Monday following Lamont's killing that the usually easy-going Smart had become 'quarrelsome' of late.
Last Sunday, the Observer published an article about widespread depression and stress among members of the JCF, mainly due to poor working conditions and long work hours.
Said Ellington: "Some of the incidents members deal with or attend to can have very significant and long-term consequences for them personally. Not only is it important that we look after our members when they need assistance, but it is equally important to ensure that, as a public service, we do everything possible to ensure that our members are fit, healthy and happy at work, in order to better deliver that personal, professional and protective policing service that the public expects."
Ellington, meanwhile, said he would be meeting with the leadership of the force's Medical Services Branch and the Chaplaincy Unit to "seek better solutions as to how better we can care for members".
The security ministry had said last week that it would provide psychological assistance to members of the force and also make regular evaluation.