Tue | Nov 24, 2020

Stress, police and what's right

Published:Monday | August 28, 2017 | 12:00 AM


The recent release on social media of a policewoman imploring her superior, also a woman, to stop harassing her and the subsequent uptick in negative commentary which it has attracted highlight many things about the state of our society and mental-health issues therein.

Most specifically, it speaks to the health of our policemen and women and the urgent need for interventions of varying kinds that are required to enable them to effectively discharge their duties. Indeed, it is this last point that occupies my interests, given the urgency of the situation as indicated in that same video.

I strenuously object to any recommendations that the officer in the video be fired, whether immediately or later - subject to review by her supervisors, because of this unfortunate meltdown. The idea that we are somehow machines, without either feelings or emotions.

The policewoman, in other words, ought not have said what she did in the video. Instead, she should have shown gratitude at being mercilessly victimised at the hands of a very hostile supervisor and the alleged abuse and indifference she has directed towards her.

This is clearly nonsense and does not conform with any known reality in which one is truly hurt and upset by whichever event. What is more, to argue that others have survived terrorist-supervisors and that that somehow emboldens the claims that the policewoman, who was likely also filmed against her will, itself, a gross invasion of her privacy, is somehow defective and should, therefore, be relieved of her duties, is spiteful and excessive.

Such a position not only empowers the supervisor, herself a woman, to continue with the alleged acts of provocation; it also absolves her of any likely involvement in the matter. Indeed, the video, in many ways, not only calls into question the health of police officers, generally speaking, but policewomen in a more specific way.

It suggests that, likely, women in power and in this case, the police force, face specific challenges which may require interventions of varying kinds in order for them to function well. I read for example, the police woman's impassioned pleas for her supervisor to desist from her sordid interests in her, as a clear case of abuse of power.




It also speaks to how people of the same gender exercise their power over subordinates in ways that are aimed at reducing their sense of self-worth and value over time. Women in charge can be every minute as tyrannical and often are.

Appropriate support systems are needed in all workplace contexts, in order to ensure that workers' physical safety is facilitated and that their mental health is not compromised. In addition to which, routine reviews of the supervisory process is also necessary to guarantee a good mix of skills, talents and abilities within a team. And that, those in charge of leading said teams do not abuse the authority vested in them on account of their status.

Worker rights are an important part of any good working relationship. However, more than that, the ability to empathise and understand the plight of others is critical. Failure to do so is the clearest sign that a team is failing and not achieving its targeted outputs.