Why men in uniform need behavioural and soft skills training

Dr Smitha Shine 

A recent news report in an English daily reads: Missing Kerala policeman traced to Karur in Tamil Nadu. A circle inspector of Kochi city police, who went missing following an argument with his superior officer has been traced to Tamil Nadu. His wife told the media that he went missing due to the mental torture and pressure from senior officers. Due to the mental torture, the policeman was exhausted and determined to leave. Mental exhaustion may cause to anyone who experience long term stress. One of the behavioural signs of mental exhaustion is social withdrawal or isolation. This is what happened to the policeman who has experienced high stress and decided to say goodbye to his family and career life. So it is high time to address the sources and role of stress among police personnel, its impact on their life and society, and how they can work in a stress less environment.

Stress has become an issue of great concern over the last decade. It is an extensive alarm across all professions and is a generally reported cause of occupational illness, absenteeism, sabotage, strikes, turnover, depression, anxiety and more. Researchers and Scientists has found that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression is result from mental torture or physical torture which cause the same amount of harm and are indistinguishable in their long term impact on psychological health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that by 2020 five of the top ten medical problems worldwide will be stress related. Stress became the 21st century buzzword, from the high pervading corporate echelons to the bassinets of teething infants nurseries, we find this word liberally used.

The Findings of the 2018 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey – Future Assured, conducted by Cigna TTK Health Insurance, show that stress levels are higher in Indian compared with other developed and emerging countries, including the United States, the UK, Germany, France, China, Brazil and Indonesia. The survey says that 9 out of 10 Indians suffer from stress. According to the data and statistics, there are certain job which could get really stressful. They are healthcare professional (doctor, nurse, surgeons), police officers, military personnel, construction employees, IT employees and banking employees. Over the past decade, policing has been widely discussed as a stressful occupation when compared to other professions. According to the recent findings of CareerCast, police officers job is stressful all over the world. The high incidence of occupational stress in the police in United States of America has reached such a proportion that an International Law Enforcement Stress Association (ILSEA) formed in 1978 which publishes its own quarterly magazine entitled “police stress”. In the first issue of this magazine Hans Selye, the Father of Stress Research, in his opening address suggested that “Police is a uniquely high stress occupation”.

In India, the policeman’s work environment also does not escape from this reality. Police personnel play a pivotal role in maintaining the disciplinary and legislative homeostasis of the society. Stress among police personnel is being acknowledged as an international phenomenon of serious concern. The presence of stress among policemen is felt but not recognized as the major enemy. Occupational stress among police is often viewed as an unlucky, but expected part of police work. Police are like a real hero, but most of people are unaware the amount of stress that police face every day. Police work involves protection of life, safeguarding property through vital patrol techniques, enforcement of laws and ordinances in the place for which the police station is responsible. They are the first’s line of protection between the criminals and the society. During their duty, unexpectedly they may encounter situations involving major crisis without any warning. There are several factors like 24-hour availability, administration problem were involved and make police as a most stressful job. A number of studies were carried out in different parts of the world for understanding nature of stress among Police Personnel. Studies found that the top four of sixty most stressful police work events were killing someone while on duty, witnessing a fellow officer killed, being physically attacked, and seeing abused and battered children. Apart from that physical threats, lack of support, lack of time for family, Attitude of fellow policemen and behaviour of senior officers, delay in promotions and rewards, organisational pressure, political pressure, police organisational culture and an officer’s workload were the highest ranked stressors.

In India, several studies have been conducted by researchers on ‘stresses among police personnel. Researchers pointed out that most of the policemen in India remained overburdened with work and have to stay away from their families and children for long periods which often leads to family problems and disputes. Inability to handle domestic tension and job related stress may translate into rude behaviour on duty.

In India, sociopsychological studies and surveys on “police stress” have been largely focused on experiences of job stress, job satisfaction, impact of geographic & cultural variation on occupational stress among police personnel.

Studies also found that officers treat their subordinates in a disreputable and bad mannered. In India, research work related to stress in police began about a decade back. Research in India on police stress acquired scientific importance in late 1980s. Early work in this area concluded that long and unpredictable working hours, dealing with violators of law and anti-social elements, threats of being injured or killed, bureaucratic structure, rigidly allocated work pattern, high disciplinary procedures and regimentation, lack of respect from public and work shifts were sources of stress among police personnel.

Media, many a time highlights about the impact of occupational stress among police personnel on physical as well as mental health, which also attracts the attention of researchers to study this domain in detail. In India, sociopsychological studies and surveys on “police stress” have been largely focused on experiences of job stress, job satisfaction, impact of geographic & cultural variation on occupational stress among police personnel.

It is shocking that the suicide rates of police personnel and the complaints/cases registered against police personnel are rising every year. The Union Home Ministry has told a parliamentary panel that nearly 700 personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces committed suicide in the last six years, more than those killed in action. The rate of police ending life is going up with many cases of police officers and policemen committing suicides all over India ,for various known and unknown reasons. The reasons are both work related as well as personal life and family related issues. Work related pressure is a real killer as the police force are forced to work for extented hours beyond 8 hours reaching 12 to 14 hours. Moreover, police forces have to work very hard during festivals, Bandhs, emergency, political meetings etc. Previous year Indian Express met families and colleagues of several such officers   who comitted suicide found that there are silent triggers that often go unnoticed — from lack of leaves and timely counselling at work to a feeling of being misunderstood at home.

Some of the recent incidents are:

A 30-year-old Delhi Police constable suffering from depression allegedly committed suicide by shooting himself with his service pistol while he was on duty in northeast Delhi’s Dayalpur area (Feb 2019)

 A 43-year-old assistant sub-inspector of police allegedly shot dead his wife before killing himself with his service revolver over a “domestic dispute” in haryana’s (Jan 2019)

 A policeman posted on the security duty of a Union minister allegedly committed suicide by shooting himself dead in Uttar Pradesh’s Shahjahanpur district (Oct 2018)

 Apart from this large number of complaints pertaining to Human Rights violations are in the area of abuse of police powers, particularly those of arrest and detention. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) does not document cases of custodial torture. The National Human Rights Comission (NHRC) does deal with cases of torture in custody, but the annual figures related to such cases do not get reported in its reports. However we get some facts and figures in the website of National Human Rights Comission and from the article India’s Silent Acceptance of Torture Has Made It a ‘Public Secret’ are as follows.

Anti-GAIL protestors in Kozhikode (Hindu 2017), dalits protesting against violence during Bhima Koregaon celebrations (Ferreira and Gonsalves 2018), organisers and participants of Bharat Band call given on April 2, 2018 by dalit-bahujan groups (Jain 2018) and anti-Sterlite protestors in Tuticorin – all were subjected to illegal detentions, mass arrests and torture in police custody (Ananth 2018).Advocate Rajarathinam was illegally detained and tortured in Tirunelveli (Times of India 2017), and in another instance cartoonist G Bala was subjected to similar treatment in Chennai (Hindu 2017).

All these issues are related to the negative impact of stress among police personnel which badly affect their physical as well as mental health. Police services have always been one of the most challenging and stressful services in India and with changing times it is becoming even more so. Their work stress can be further aggravated because of their personality traits or wrong coping methods.,

A majority of National and International studies have found high stress levels in police, which is disturbing as psychiatric morbidity have many direct and indirect negative consequences for society. High psychological stress is seen to have a negative impact not only on their work ability but also in the personal and interpersonal spheres of their lives.

Therefore, apart from physical fitness, they have to be mentally fit to do full justice to their duties.

Hence in view of the above, need for stress management for police personnel is highly apparent. Since the impact of stress can be cognitive, emotional, psychological and behavioural, a multidimensional programme perhaps the use of multidimensional intervention for the police personnel can be regarded as a first positive step in this. This can be accomplished through soft skills and behavioral skill training.

 Why we need of soft skill and behaviour skill training

The police force careers demand to interact appropriately with a variety of people at any given time in a variety of situations. Not surprisingly, many people are not going to be happy to see a policeman. The best way to resolve potentially dangerous use-of-force situations is to rely on cognitive and emotional intelligence. These are not necessarily the hard skills the policeman acquired in their professional training. These are those soft skills need to develop to be truly effective in day-to-day job as a police officer. Some of the soft skills needed for a Policeman is Empathy, compassion, non-verbal communication, active listening, building trust, conflict resolution and work life balance. The need to hone and develop these skills is perhaps much more pronounced and acute in law enforcement. As society demands more compassion and understanding from their officers, emotional intelligence and soft skills are increasingly more important in recruiting, training and retaining police officers, and they are the keys to success in their own career.

Behavioral skills often fall under the general heading of good character, friendliness, maturity, or common sense, and many people assume they come naturally as part of being good or smart—they don’t. These are skills that must be learned and practiced. People with people’s skills are required to run an organization successfully. The role of human behavior is an important factor of performance in any organisations. Bad and irresponsible behavior can spoil the work culture and performance of individuals and co-workers. That is the significance of behavioural skill training in police force. Police personnel must master to enable them to serve effectively in the field, ensuring public security and order while respecting the law and human rights. behavioural skills training can change the autocratic leadership style largely existing in the police department. Because the sensitivity and co-operation shown by superiors can help in reducing the stress levels among police officers. Through behavioural skill training a person acquire self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship skills and responsible decision making.

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