KOZHIKODE: The aggressive cop, we know. The abusive cop is passé. The corrupt cop tag has often been tried both in reel and real life and it’s been found to fit some. Stressed out cops, pushed to taking their own lives is the new scary reality the Kerala police are now coming to terms with. Alarmed by the spike in the number of suicides within its ranks, the Kerala Police have finally acknowledged it is a cancer eating into its very core. With 16 police officers taking their own lives in less than nine months in 2017,State Police Chief Loknath Behera has issued an order on September 25 directing district police chiefs to put in place a mentor system at all police stations. As per the order, all unit heads, including station house officers, must identify police officials with problems of alcoholism, substance abuse, domestic, financial and health issues.
"The situation warranted immediate intervention. The district police chiefs have been assigned with the task to take appropriate measures for implementing mentor system to provide guidance and counselling to police personnel," Behera told Express. The DGP has directed the unit heads or the SHOs to prepare a list of police personnel who have behavioural problems and provide them with right assistance. "If the unit head or the SHO finds such tendencies, then all help should be extended for counselling and medication," the order said.
As per Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) data, 31 policemen committed suicide in Kerala between 2012 and 2014, during which period the state was way behind Tamil Nadu that led this list with 116 suicides but only marginally behind Karnataka where 39 cops took their own lives. The number of Kerala police personnel who committed suicide in 2015 and 2016 is not something that is readily available off the shelf. But 2017 numbers have shaken the brass sufficiently to consider corrective measures on a war-footing.
Here are some excerpts from the DGP’s order that put things in perspective: "Many police personnel end up in trouble and lose their professional career as well as their personal life due to non-availability of proper advice and guidance as and when required from a person as a mentor. Presently, most of the police personnel, especially new entrants, who lack experience in practical aspects of police work and in dealing with contingencies they come across in everyday police work are groping in the dark due to the non-availability of proper support."
"As an initial step, police personnel with some admirable qualities can be mentors. At least 5-10 personnel, preferably juniors, may be put in charge of each mentor. The mentors shall be of impeccable character with inclination for the given task. The mentors have to be provided orientation courses to sensitise them about the purpose of the mentoring system and to bring about qualitative improvement in mentoring. The unit heads and senior officers shall conduct a monthly review on the functioning of the scheme.
According to Composite Regional Centre for Persons with Disabilities (CRC) Kozhikode Assistant Professor (Clinical Psychology) M Suresh Kumar, police personnel fall in the high risk category due to their job profile. "Apart from tremendous work pressure, interaction with criminals and regular handling of cases like suicides, unnatural deaths and accidents turn the police personnel insensitive to a large degree. Eventually, it reaches a stage where they fail to see life as a normal person does and stop worrying about consequences of their actions," he said. “The state police should ensure they are allowed sufficient time off their daily rigours as also counselling."
As per a report of Bureau of Police Research and Development for 2016, the sanctioned strength of police personnel (civil and armed) in the state was 60,502 while the actual strength stood at 53,881. Result: a shortfall 6,621. It is not all bad though. This translated to one policeman for 661 persons as against the target of one police person for 588 persons.