Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Deadly police rage - Members of the security forces who kill their women find them too spunky

Published:Wednesday | August 24, 2016 | 8:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Dr Christopher Charles

Those policemen and soldiers who murder their spouses and then commit suicide are authoritarians who believe that their female partners must be submissive, and when the woman shows spunk, the result is death. These men also fail to separate what is required of them on the street and what is required at home.

This conclusion came out of a study conducted by Dr Christopher Charles, senior lecturer in political psychology in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies.

He is strongly recommending that members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) be required to take an annual three-hour workshop dealing with general well-being, domestic violence, and murder-suicide prevention to combat what he says is a culture of force that has been prevalent.

The research, which was done between 2015 and 2016, examined the interaction of some contextual and personality factors that influenced policemen and members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) to commit murder-suicides. The study looked at 11 cases that occurred between 1997 and 2016 and were found on Jamaican newspaper databases. The study was framed on the authoritarian personality theory which is the state of mind or attitude characterised by belief in absolute obedience or submission to one's own authority.

In June of this year, residents of Short Hill in St Elizabeth, experienced grief following an apparent murder-suicide in their community which has left 41-year-old nail technician Tamara McIntosh and her lover, 59-year-old Easton Douglas, a retired police inspector, dead.

In discussing the study, Charles told The Gleaner that while police and soldiers generally have an authoritarian personality, which is required for successful policing and military activities, law enforcement and soldiering are very stressful and dangerous jobs that require personnel with the psychological make-up to deal with the challenges and dangers.

"The majority of police and military authoritarians held conventional beliefs and expected their female partners to be submissive. Women were killed because they refused to submit. The murder-suicide incidents perpetrated by nine members of the JCF and two members of the JDF killed 26 persons and injured two others over 18 years. These murderous behaviours arose from the interactions of environmental factors and the interior psychologies of the perpetrators and primary targets," the study said.

"These authoritarian men believed in conventionalism, authoritarian submission, and authoritarian aggression. They experienced relationship problems and challenges from partners, including some who terminated the relationship.

"... Content analysis of the 11 news stories revealed contextual factors such as gender - all perpetrators were males and nearly all the primary targets females; age - the perpetrators were older than all the primary targets; occupational status and job rank - the perpetrators were in higher status occupations or in higher job ranks than most primary targets; domestic situations - the perpetrators and the majority of targets were domestic partners."

The political psychologist told The Gleaner that there were deep-seated issues such as Jamaica's history and culture that he said must be urgently addressed to create a more holistic police force.

"The common threads throughout the incidents show the difficulty in separating what is required on the streets with what is required at home. Our culture, as well, has a lot to do with it - teacher a beat, principal a beat, everybody a beat. Parents rough, prison warder rough, so it comes out of the structure of our history," he said.

He, therefore, suggested that there be a holistic approach in catering to the welfare of both police and soldiers in ensuring that there is strong psychological support.

"It is imperative that the JCF and the JDF address the occurrence of murder-suicide incidents among their rank and file to boost the morale and enhance effectiveness of the security forces," the study recommended.

"The solutions suggested here are by no means comprehensive. The medical branches of the JCF and the JDF are currently understaffed, with the JCF having one full-time psychiatrist, a nurse and a chaplain (for approximately 13,000 members) and the JDF has two mental-health nurses (for approximately 3,000 soldiers) who make referrals to outside psychiatrists as the need arises," he said.

"Given the fact that insufficient financial resources are available for mental-health services in the security forces, the medical branches of the JDF and the JCF should be integrated into a mental-health department of the Ministry of National Security to serve police and soldiers for the more effective use of the limited financial resources.

He further suggested that two psychiatrists, two clinical psychologists, two clinical social workers, three mental health nurses and two chaplains should staff the new mental health department.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com