Kerala Police under Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has been in news for wrong reasons. The police received a lot of flak in handling of the Maoist hunt and Walayar rape cases. Earlier, the department was harshly criticised for some custodial deaths, wherein in one case, death penalty was awarded to two accused police officers. At that time the court said, “If the faith of the people in the institution is lost, that will affect the public order, law and order of the society and it is a dangerous situation.” The state police had come in for criticism in the recent years for a range of reasons from custodial torture and indecent behaviour towards public.
Although the police is at the receiving end of all types of criticisms, they themselves are victims of poor working circumstances. The suicidal rate among police personnel is on the rise in Kerala. Reports suggest that within three years, 53 police personnel, including senior officers, have committed suicide. Of this majority of the officers are in the age group of 50 to 55 years. The Chief Minister of Kerala informed in the Assembly on November 14, 2019 that after his government, 50 persons from police force committed suicide. However, Kerala Police Association pointed out that in recent times, 66 policemen had committed suicide.
According to figures, an average of 20 policemen end their lives every year in Kerala due to work pressure. Most of the reports proved that work stress is the main reason for suicide. Though arrangements like Help and Assistance to Tackle Stress (HATS), Yoga and other Stress management training are there to improve a personnel’s mental health at work place, the recent incidents of suicides showed that all those programmes are in vain. Some officers have the opinion that the frequent mental relaxation courses only added to the stress as these overworked police personnel were made to attend it after insane working hours.
Stress has become a common and costly health problem. Its impact on mental health and physical health of police personnel are not addressed adequately by the concerned authorities and health professionals in India. The police force careers demands to interact appropriately with a variety of people at any given time in a variety of situations. Local policemen dealing with the public are constantly asked to decide on several matters without advice or reference. That is why it is considered as the most stressful job. They are like real heroes, but most are unaware about the amount of stress they face every day. It is often viewed as an unlucky, but expected part of police work. Negative work environment, long duration of working hours, lack or lesser time for family, irregular or improper eating habits, need to take tough decisions very quickly, sleepless nights, inadequate time for leisure activities and difficulties in personal life are some reasons of stress among police personnel.
According to Kerala Police Association (KPA)
,Stress among cops is mainly due to overload of work and mistreatment of Superior officers . Theses are the main reasons behind the suicides . Work overload is due to the lack of manpower.A study conducted by KPA cited that 5,592 police personnel were attached to 97 police stations coming under heavy category and these stations required 4,108 more personnel. In police stations under medium category, 3,721 police personnel were attached and here also there was a deficiency of 2,172 personnel. The 287 stations under light category had 1,0796 staff, but here also 3,267 additional cops were needed.if the force strength is increased proportionally with increasing workload and the policemen are given systematic leaves to recover , 80% of such cases of suicide can be avoided. Mistreatment of superior officers create mental pressure among cops. Recently kerala women commission has received a massive complaint from the Cop’s wives alleging that a higher official in Police department is harassing their husbands.Along with work overload, these types of inhuman treatment in the form of harassment definitely at the hands of superior officers make the cops to commit suicides.Some reports shows that the majority of the suicide cases involve policemen at local stations which suggest that authorities are failing to take care of the welfare and needs of the police force. Moreover ,excess use of alcohol and drugs to overcome stress finally ends with suicide. Apart from this pressure from media, civil society and political authorities especially during investigations also causes stress among cops .
Presence of stress among police force is in an alarming situation which needs to be addressed immediately.It is felt but not recognized as the major enemy . Stress may directly affect their physical and mental health which may result in absenteeism, poor functioning and depression. This, in turn, may affect the crime prevention and correctional services as well as their personal and family life. As a highly hierarchical organisation with a highly demanding and stressful job, Policemen needed support to ease into the uniformed life from a civilian life.
What can Do
Administrative solutions to reduce work overload , psychiatric counselling and debriefing sessions by a certified counsellor in every 6 months,special considerations for females & middle age officers,providing opportunity to the cops to spend time with the family members, providing better living conditions,granting of leaves & permission in emergency situations should be liberal are few recommendations to reduce stress among officers. Apart from this a structured Behavioural skills and Soft skills training sessions can create a stress less environment . Behavioural skills training can change the autocratic leadership style largely existing in the police department which helps to avoid unnecessary harassment. Because the sensitivity and co-operation shown by superiors can help in reducing the stress level among junior cops .Soft Skills training helps the Policeman to build empathy & trust ,compassion, non verbal communication,conflict resolution and work life balance. Moreover politicians, media and superior officers should avoid unnecessary interference on the duty of Cops.