A police force we can be proud of PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 06 October 2014 14:29



We don’t intend to unjustly lump all the members of the country’s police force into the one basket of rotten eggs that they tend to be perceived. But it is a rampant reputation that will not be easily overcome.

Some  questions though have to be raised:  Why is the reputation so bad and so widespread? Is the perception simply the fault of the public’s tendency to “profile” the police, which tendency is allegedly shown in other places by the police towards members of specific groups? In the US this is now a serious problem where the “profiling” is directed towards African-Americans of a certain age group. The most recent case is that of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri arising from the shooting of  an unarmed young man by a policeman.

In many cases of corruption  in our country  inappropriate conduct of public employees and cases of serious incompetence,  the problem is  more systemic rather than distinct individual cases.

In my last piece I raised a few questions about the perceived ineffectiveness of our police force to address the problems for which they are supposed to be our bulwark against.  Let me just take up the matter of recruitment and selection  of those who become members of the police force.

Let us not be sanguine about it. Our best and brightest do not dream of becoming cops. To be kind, for many of our high school graduates to be a cop is a fall back position when other brighter prospects do not turn out  or when there is the belief that the position can be a quick and easy way to make money.  We begin then with the reality that when graduates of  criminology courses apply we normally look at lean pickings.

Then there is the “urban myth” that those who apply for positions in a police force may have sponsors who will grease some palms to get these applicants selected so that they become the inside contacts of the sponsors in their own questionable activities. Perhaps these claims are simply “myths” but there are those who claim that these are true, “cross my heart and hope to die.”

People who sit in selection boards have the difficult task of  determining  the motivation of those they are evaluating. One can ask the question “Why do you want to  become a policeman?” and you can expect the most noble kind of answers. There are standardized psychological tests which can be administered to the applicants to determine level of motivation but these tests are usually foreign made with the usual cultural load and we can have some reservations about their validity as applied to our local applicants. There is also the factor of language. These tests are usually in English and immediately a red flag of warning comes up as to how much the examinee might have understood the test he/she took.

Assuming that the selection process was valid and identified the most qualified applicants  there is still  the question of how effective is the supervision of the force as they carry out their defined tasks. One immediate comment I can make on this is:  Are cops supposed to sit in the sidelines of their beat as they attend to their cell phones?

We wish our policemen the best in their work but it takes a lot of work on the part of the public and the decision makers to make this possible.