Lambert Brown, Contributor
It happened before. We had the same knee-jerk reaction. The same story could be written with the same headlines beginning with 'Cop kills ... .' This will be followed by an outpouring of righteous indignation by numerous groups and individuals.
The story will be moderated by reports of how good the officer was, detail his connection to the church, and state how helpful he was to others. Then the story will be continued as it was in last Thursday's Gleaner by a statement that there will be 'Psychological services for cops'.
On the 11th of May last year, the headline was 'Chaplaincy Unit embarks on sensitisation programme'. At that time, the story read, in part: "The Chaplaincy Unit in the Jamaica Constabulary Force has embarked on a programme to sensitise members of the force on how to deal with emotional and stressful situations. There has been concern about the emotional stability of police personnel after a corporal murdered four members of his wife's family, then killed himself."
a case in point
Now, as you recall that tragic event in St Mary in April last year, you may also recall that an ex-policeman had killed his ex-girlfriend, who was a police corporal, her son and her child's father in Manchester just a week before.
In 2010, a member of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) murdered some members of his common-law wife's family in Kingston after she told him she was no longer interested in a relationship with him. These things not only happened in the recent past but will happen again if concerted and sustained actions are not taken to arrest the decline in the mental health of those with whom we entrust the possession of deadly weapons.
The killing of Kayann Lamont and the shooting of her sister in Yallahs, St Thomas, in the last nine days should, therefore, not come as any surprise to us. We should ease up on the statements of condemnation and righteous indignation. What we should be spending time doing is being self-critical of our failure as a society to be constantly ensuring that the men and women of our security forces were, in fact, being counselled and getting the necessary support to cope with the stressful conditions of work and life.
Where were the continuous calls for strengthening the Chaplaincy Unit so it could be in a position to be truly proactive, rather than sadly reacting after the blood has flowed and grieve and pain engulfed the family and friends of both the victim and the perpetrator? Where were the continuous evaluations of the work of the Chaplaincy Unit? This would at least guarantee that we were kept abreast of measures to prevent the likelihood of the disaster of Yallahs.
The dastardly deeds must be condemned when they occur, but we have an obligation to go beyond mere outrage. We must ensure that the infrastructure and resources are in place to minimise, if not totally eliminate, the recurrence of these senseless killings.
We have to insist that our Government allocate sufficient funds to take care of the mental health of the men and women who, every day and night, face severe danger as they attempt to serve and protect our society. For the Government to be able to allocate the desired funds, those who are engaged in tax evasion, avoidance of paying traffic tickets, or cause wastage of public funds must take some responsibility for the avoidable deaths from untreated mental stress among our security forces.
Every cent counts. As a society, we must all play our part in ensuring that appropriate resources are available to do important things like caring for the mental health of our security forces. This is a time for all of us in this society to take responsibility for fixing the little things that can improve the quality of lives of our people.
For too long, the majority of us operate on a 'nine-day wonder' mentality. We get hot when something outrageous occurs, and very soon thereafter we are back in our comfort zone. We tend to see things as an event and not as a process. If we begin to see things as a process, we will realise that we cannot afford to rest on our laurels, only to be awaken for another 'nine days'.
Makes no bones about it, just as the unfortunate and despicable events mentioned above took place in the past, others will take place in the future, once again earning our temporary outrage with repeated calls for curative, rather than preventative, actions.
Jamaica needs more of our citizens to become activists for causes which hold our authorities accountable for doing what is right. One such cause is to implement an excellent system of counselling. This must be constantly monitored and frequently evaluated so that we lift the mental health of our security forces. Every parish should have its own committee and activist units working with the leadership of the Ministry of National Security, the leadership of the security forces, religious groups, social workers and the business community, so that we truly become our brother's keeper.
If we are to prevent murders like what happened in Yallahs two Saturdays ago, and those in St Mary and Manchester last year, from recurring, the Government must do more than react. It must be proactive on this critical issue of the mental health of our security forces.
Adequate resources must be provided; constantly evaluation must take place; and regular reports made to the nation on the effectiveness of the measures being pursued. An alert citizenship must demand no less. Otherwise, as sure as night follows day, it will happen again.
Lambert Brown is president of the University and Allied Workers Union. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and Labpoyh@yahoo.com.