The Nigeria leadership, institutions and the public in general need to realize fully that in spite of whatever attitude we have about our police men and women, police work in general is highly demanding and remains a stressful job.
In our current society, we live in an era where the people of Nigeria live in extraordinary times due to security problems, and this type of atmosphere further compounds and push some of our police officers into a state of deeper stress, lingering frustration, intense worry, and silent depression. And some of them could be coping with these issues by turning to free-for-all aggression, naked corruption and outright indiscipline, and now some officers are steadily pushing themselves into the path of self-destruction, suicide and murder-suicide. What a painful development and occurrence!
Usually, the most vulnerable among them are the ones that are prone to these types of destructive behaviors.
In a country where it is mandated that anyone entering the police work must go through psychological screening, testing and evaluation by doctoral level forensic and clinical psychologists, these type of people get detected right from the beginning and declared unfit for police work. But this is not the case with Nigeria.
There is need for a periodic psychological testing of serving and existing officers in order to detect those in need of being declared unfit to continue police work, and/or those who are very competent in terms of their police work but could be struggling with some form of emotional difficulties which could be reduced with therapeutic intervention.
This is where counseling comes in and a visit to a psychiatrist for possible medication prescription and maintenance after a verbal interview and completion of symptoms-check-list by the psychiatrist.
It should be clear that psychiatrists are not about the use of psychological instruments for examining and screening in or screening out any candidate, especially for police work, as such function is the sole job of a psychologist.
The neglect or negligence of issues of mental health continues because of the common belief that psychological services are mostly something the ‘White Man’ is concerned with, and these issues are seen as forms of stigmatization.
And by vising one’s pastor or imam secretly many people believe ‘the problem’ will be solved automatically.
In the face of the considerable neglect of the psychological aspects of policing, our society now finds itself being hit with very disturbing police behaviors.
Recently, in America a Massachusetts police officer reportedly shot a fellow officer then returned to the scene and kills himself. This type of behavior is expected in a society where the use of violence is sometimes glamorous and one of the quickest ways to settle any dispute between families, co-workers and children, unfortunately.
Now in our society, we hear about cases like that of a policeman going wild and shooting two of his colleagues before shooting himself in the State of Adamawa State. In Rivers State, a police officer reportedly shooting another officer while they were on duty in Port Harcourt then turned the AK-47 rifle on himself. Not long ago, in Kano State, a police man reportedly shot a police officer who questioned him about stealing N50, 000 from a citizen, and then killed himself.
There are many other cases of misuse of force and destructive behaviors.
In addition to possible stressful, provocative situations and poor coping methods that could be involved in many of these painful acts, there are just some persons who have no business doing police work. It is true.
The long standing requirements which include a letter of character attestation from one’s ward, district or village signed by an Oba or Emir, and obtaining a certificate of fitness from a government Hospital are not a enough to declare one as ripe and qualified for police work.
These are olden days set of requirements, not minding our indigenous and traditional backgrounds, and if truth be told these types of guidelines are dead as times have changed.
These types of requirements are some of the main reasons why we have the recent Adamawa, Port-Harcourt, Kano and the Zakari Biu cases.
This is why we hear of unusual cases like a police officer kills a civilian over N50 bribe; a Nigerian man shot dead due to N20 Bribe; a police man pursued a motorist and deflated his tires over bribe, a police man shot a man because of 40 naira bribe, a police man kills a bus driver over N20, and in Onitsha a bus driver was slain by a trigger happy police officer because the late driver insisted on paying N20 in bribes instead of what the officer wanted—a whole N50.
As a psychologist who knows about the satisfaction one gets from a very good remuneration, even if we begin to pay the police a starting monthly salary of 200, 000 naira, or transfer them up and down or even dismiss the troubled ones; our police problems will deepen and remain largely unsolved.
As a democratic society, the Nigerian public, the government and every good faith officials need to insist that every serving police personnel and prospective police man and woman be administered a collection of psychological tests in order to determine his or her psychological fitness-for-duty.
As we all know the police work in particular, is marked with sensitive positions, commands public trust and it involves a disciplined atmosphere, and this is what we want in Nigeria.