Prime Minister John Briceno has announced that sixteen police officers are currently on suicide watch. The PM made the announcement yesterday on “The Morning Show”, saying that the officers have sought therapy due to the tremendous pressures that they have been experiencing over the past several months. According to the PM, his administration is working with the department to provide constant training and support to help the officers cope with the trauma they encounter on the job.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “There’s a lot of work with the police has to be done also and with the police in the sense of removing these camouflage fatigues that they use, we give them that sense of ‘Okay we’re out here in war.’ and we have to do a lot of training constant training, constant reminding them. Counseling, again Minister Musa pointed out to us in the police there about sixteen police officers that are on suicide watch. It is a difficult job. They’re out there trying to get people to wear their masks and then they cuss them up but that is certainly no excuse for what happened and myself as a father and also as the Prime Minister condemn it in the strongest way that I can possibly do and that our hearts reach out to the family and that as a government we need to do better and also as a people we need to do better.”
The Commissioner of Police Chester Williams also commented on the matter, saying that the Minister of Home Affairs Kareem Musa has been working to provide the department with an in-house counselor and to help officers cope with mental trauma.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “You know often times people don’t understand or appreciate the nature of police work, the stress associated with police work. At times police officers have their own issues at home, they have issues on the job, they have issues on the streets and those things really and truly can affect someone psychologically. And so yes we do have some officers who are going through their own psychological issue and what we do is that we work through the Ministry of Public Service Employee Assistance program to provide counseling for these officers. In some cases some of them have come forward on their own to say that they need counseling because they understand what they’re going through and in other cases we have to mandate that they go through counseling. And so it is extremely rough the Minister has said to me and we have put together a proposal to the Ministry of Public Service that will go to the Ministry of Finance where we’re applying for there to be created within the police department a vacancy for an in house counselor. I believe that it is high time that we get one. The police is a very big organization and we don’t have a counselor. The BDF is smaller than us and the BDF have counselors so we believe that it is time that we get one and I’m happy to see that our minister is championing that cause for us that we can have our own in house counselor very shortly. It will certainly go a long way in terms of helping our police officer psychologically to be able to cope at times with the different issues that they encounter. Look for example in other parts of the world whenever there is a police related shooting or when police officers go on a scene, particularly a heinous scene, they must undergo certain hours of counseling before returning to ordinary duties but in Belize we don’t do that. A police officer is involved in a shooting and the next day he’s back at work. A police officer goes and visits a very heinous scene and next day they’re back at work without us having to look at how much psychological damage those situations may have cause the police officer. And so we have to look at things differently if it is we want to transform that must be a part of our transformation to ensure that we provide adequate psychological services for our members in order for them to be able to function at optimal level as we expect them to.”
Compol Williams also noted that the officers placed on suicide watch have been placed on leave or are working in areas where a service weapon is not needed.