The GPF needs a Behavioural Science Unit

Dear Editor,

I again make a clarion call for the establishment of a Behavioural Science Unit in the Guyana Police Force (GPF) to focus on promoting acceptable behaviour among its members, among other issues.  If behaviour is not urgently and adequately addressed in the GPF, ranks will continue to display deviant conduct, thereby tarnishing the image of the force and eroding its  public confidence.  I write against the background of the recent shooting of a female rank by a male member of the force who apparently committed suicide. The report about a month ago of another male member of the force stationed in Berbice who allegedly took his own life by hanging after images of him kissing another person of the same sex surfaced in the social media, and the constant reports in the print and electronic media and elsewhere of inappropriate behaviour committed by members of the force at various levels, including recruits and senior officers.

Behaviour is a major phenomenon that the Guyana Police Force must deal with as they set out to achieve the objectives of the force under section 3 (2) of the Police Act Chapter 16; 01 and the unwritten expectations imposed on them by society. The police must not only deal with the behaviour of criminals, but also the behaviour of the general public, the behaviour of their families,  their friends and their own behaviour. They can no longer regard the study of behaviour as the sole concern of the psychologist and psychiatrist. They must learn about behaviour and behavioural science in order to effectively and safely carry out the job.

What is required is a holistic approach towards behaviour at all levels in the GPF. Piecemeal efforts will only produce piecemeal results. Cops and Faith Network and the establishment of a Suicide Section in the force to monitor a suicide hotline are good initiatives, but their scope of operations is limited. We cannot be attempting to serve problems on the outside when those same problems are affecting us on the inside. A Behavioural Science Unit staffed with fit and proper persons will go a far way towards promoting acceptable behaviour among members of the GPF. Some of the areas that such a unit can focus on are: communication, cultural sensitivity, conflict resolution ‒ do you resolve conflict by resorting to the boots, baton, the bayonet or through the barrel of a gun? ‒ self esteem, emotional intelligence, policing multi-cultural and diverse communities, effectively dealing with people, effective investigations, cultural awareness, anger management, critical thinking skills, capacity to act and ability to apply knowledge.

Several years ago I attended the Federal Bureau of Investigations National Academy. My interactions with their Behavioural Science Unit then and thereafter enabled me to deal effectively with members of the public when executing my duties as a law enforcement officer and  in my relationship with my friends and family. I am certain that the creation of a similar unit in the GPF will go a long way towards promoting greater trust and public confidence in the GPF.

Yours faithfully,
Clinton Conway
Assistant Commissioner of Police (ret’d)

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