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GUEST COLUMN – Reducing police misconduct

Rennette M Dimmott

GUEST COLUMN – Reducing police misconduct

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Policing in Barbados has been under scrutiny for the past few years. It is imperative to note that policing is one of the most stressful and difficult jobs in the universe and some police officers in Barbados do their utmost to carry out their duties effectively. 
The police officer is responsible for ensuring public safety, and at the same time is empowered to use force when necessary to protect civilians from bodily harm as well as people under their care.
While police officers are given an enormous amount of responsibility, at times they must make decisions that are in the best interest of the public as well as the police fraternity. In light of this reality, the public must be able to trust police officers and to a greater extent, the police fraternity. Public trust in police is a very important phenomenon because the police needs the public in order to fight crime and to help apprehend criminals.
When individuals are under the care of the police department, police officers must also protect human rights and must not be perceived as a fraternity that violates individuals in any manner. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary for officers to practise professionalism, respect, integrity and for the police fraternity to recruit officers who are willing to use moral judgement while conducting the work of the police department.
In an attempt to reduce police misconduct, the recruitment process of officers needs to be more stringent in Barbados.
Recruitment testing has been used by police departments all over the world and there is some reliability and validity regarding the use of this measure. This recruitment process will help the police department to select the best people for the job with appropriate abilities and suited personalities. 
The police department can no longer rely on other people in the community or family members to determine if an individual is suited to conduct police work.This selection process will help eliminate irresponsible, psychopathic, sociopathic, disrespectful and unprofessional people who are interested in becoming prospective police officers.
It is important to rule out individuals with poor judgement, low self-esteem, high aggression and potential substance users. Several strategies and assessment tools can be utilized in this regard. A combination of psychological assessment tools as well as the taking of history and the use of interviews. This includes psychological autopsies, psychological testing of officers to determine character, personality type and level of responsibility. 
There is also the need for police psychological assessment tests that target integrity as well as responsibility and the readiness to use firearms. The police department should also continue to train police officers and allow for an avenue for officers to discuss current and potential problems.   
Rennette M Dimmott is a forensic psychology consultant.