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Which is sadder: PH police corruption or US police suicide epidemic?

October 24, 2019

YEN MAKABENTA

First word

THIS is what lexicographers and grammarians would call an “invidious comparison.”

Collin English Dictionary says, “an invidious comparison or choice between things that is unfair because the two things are very different or are equally good or bad.”

On Aug. 23, 1981, the New York Times published an article under the title “Invidious comparison” to underscore the criticism of readers of a book review that related the objections of feminists to pornography to the objections of the moral majority movement to pornography.

My conflation of police corruption and police suicide is similarly invidious. Both are aberrations in the normally expected behavior of police officers at the job. Each is tragic in its own way.

Police dysfunction across the world

If you wonder sometimes whether the Philippines has the worst police system in the world because of the unending spectacle of police officers caught in criminal wrongdoing, their pervasive involvement in the illegal drugs trade, and the indictment of the resigned director-general of the Philippine National Police (PNP), I urge you to reflect for a moment. Consider the comparable spectacle of police dysfunction in other countries.

Consider first the police situation in Mexico where the police are literally battling with the drug cartels to recover its control of peace and order, and oftentimes appear to be on the losing end of what has been called a narco-state.

Consider next the police situation in Italy, where the police have been battling the mafia for decades to squeeze a chance for the rule of law in that country.

The tale of dysfunction is endless. The situation in Afghanistan is so appalling that I barely have the strength to type the names “Taliban” and “police” in the same sentence.

The point is: Nearly every country today is struggling in one form or another with the shortcomings of its police system

Law enforcement is simply one of the toughest must-do functions of a modern state. And no state is worthy of the name if it cannot maintain peace and order and assert its monopoly of violence.

Police suicide epidemic in US

No matter how grave is the breakdown of the police in many countries, I believe there is nothing more distressing than the current epidemic of police suicides in America.

On October 17, the Washington Times published a startling report by its reporter Sophie Kaplan that there is a surge across the country of law enforcers committing suicide.

It was published with the headline: “Police suicide epidemic spur soul-searching; ‘You may love the job… the job will never love you.’”

I reprint the report at length below, because it is unbelievable unless you get the details.

Ms. Kaplan reported:

“The suicide of a police officer in Montgomery County, Maryland, this week is part of a surge in law enforcers across the country taking their lives, prompting police departments to address concerns about the mental health of their members.

“Psychologists and police officials say a number of factors — such as increased scrutiny, mandatory overtime, perceived hostility and physical danger — contribute to the daily stress on officers.

“‘I have been in law enforcement 23 years myself. I can’t recall a time ever that it has been so stressful and difficult to be a law enforcement officer,’ said Officer Sherri Martin of the Enfield, Connecticut, police department and chair of the national officer wellness committee of the Fraternal Order of Police.

“Among the police officers who have ended their lives in recent weeks:

“– Montgomery County Police Officer Thomas Bomba, 38, requested back-up Monday for a report of disorderly conduct at a parking garage in Silver Spring, Maryland. When officers arrived, they found Officer Bomba suffering from a gunshot wound. He died later at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

“The chief medical examiner for the District of Columbia announced Tuesday that the 13-year veteran of the Montgomery County force died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“– An off-duty sergeant for the New York City Police Department fatally shot himself in his home in the Fresh Meadows neighborhood of Queens on Tuesday. He was the 10th officer the department lost this year to suicide.

“‘We vow to keep fighting this fight, to do better on these and many other fronts, and to put a stop to this epidemic once and for all,’ said NYPD Commissioner James O’Neil.

“– An off-duty Chicago police officer was found dead last month in a forest in an apparent suicide, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“The newspaper said the officer’s death was the fourth suicide by a Chicago officer this year and the eighth since July 2018. Days later, a retired Chicago police officer fatally shot himself in his home, the Tribune reported.

“Thomas Coghlan is a retired NYPD police detective who served for 21 years on the force before becoming a clinical psychologist specializing in assessments and therapy for first responders. He identified four types of stressors that can affect a police officer’s mental health:

“– Operational: responding to traumatic incidents such a fatal wreck, homicide or domestic violence.

“– Occupational: such as mandatory overtime, scheduling or missing family time.

“– Organizational: an agency’s punitive policies against officers or treating them as liabilities rather than assets.

“– Situational: such as a divorce or an illness in the family.

“Mr. Coghlan said a lack of reciprocity on the job can contribute to hopelessness, a ‘key contributing factor to suicidal thinking.’

“‘You may love the job, but the job will never love you, and that’s absolutely true,’ he said.

“Officers can become disillusioned by the job and how their department treats them, which can begin a downward turn toward hopelessness, he said.

“As officers work in the department for years, they begin to realize how the agency treats them doesn’t improve, Mr. Coghlan said.

“‘If today is the best there is, and it will never get better — in fact it will always get worse — it can develop into a sense of hopelessness,’ Mr. Coghlan said. ‘Hopelessness informs suicidal thinking.

“The Fraternal Order of Police conducted a national study on the emotional health of 8,000 officers across the country. It found that 79 percent reported experiencing critical stress at some point during their career, which they defined as ‘a strong emotional reaction that overwhelms usually effective coping abilities.’ Of that, 69 percent said it caused lingering emotional issues.

“A fifth of the respondents said they use counseling through their agencies’ employee assistance program.

“Mr. Cunningham of the International Association of Chiefs of Police said ‘people are finally starting to realize we have got to knock down the stigma and change the entire culture. The whole profession has to be healthier.’”

PH corruption

Suicide is clearly not a problem of the police in the Philippines.

According to World Health Organization statistics, the Philippines has the lowest suicide rate in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Plus Three (dialogue partners China, Japan and Korea).

The Philippines has 2.9 suicides per 100,000 people. South Korea has the highest rate, at 28.9 per 100,000.

The likelihood of a Filipino police officer taking his own life is very low. It is made more remote by the fact that policing offers many opportunities for corruption.

In the Philippines, public confidence in the police has paradoxically risen and dipped under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. It has risen as the drug war and tough police measures succeeded in controlling crime and maintaining peace and order. It has plunged as many scandals marred the police record during the past three years.

Ironically, for all the scare talk and bluster of President Duterte, many police officers, including generals, have been complicit in the illegal drugs trade. Some high-profile cases show the police involvement in acts of kidnapping, extortion and murder.

Since President Marcos integrated the national police during his rule, there have been various changes in the national police system. But the whole is not truly working today. Institutionally, there are too many problems. Operationally, particularly in the drug war, there have been foul-ups. And there is restiveness in the ranks.

The Albayalde case is a sign of serious rifts and rivalries within the police force.

Major reforms in the police in the US and the United Kingdom did not come about without comprehensive inquiry and study. This may be the only way forward for the Philippine police system.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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