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Sep 9, 2021

Stress and Trauma in Police Department: Counseling Coming

Chester Williams

Are sixteen police officers on suicide watch? Commissioner of Police Chester Williams says many members of the Belize Police Department have been traumatised as they carry out the mandate of the department and are in need of mental health services. So the department is in the process of acquiring a counsellor to help officers deal with the stresses associated with police work or issues at home.


Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“Often times people don’t understand or appreciate the nature of police work; the stress associated with police work. At times, police officers have their own issues at home, they have issues on the job, they have issues on the streets and those things really and truly can affect someone psychological. And so yes, we do have some officers who are going through their own psychological issues. And what we do is that we work through the Ministry of Public Service Employee Assistance Program to provide counselling for these officers. In some cases, some of them came forward on their own to say that they need counselling because they understand what they are going through. In other cases, we have to mandate that they go through counselling. And so it is extremely rough. The minister has said to me and we have put together a proposal to the Ministry of Public Service that will go to the Ministry of Finance where we are applying for there to be created within the police department a vacancy for an in-house counsellor. I believe that it is high time that we get one. The police is a very big organization and we don’t have a counsellor. The B.D.F. is smaller than us and the B.D.F. has counsellors. So I believe that it is time that we get one and I am happy to see that our minister is championing that cause for us – that we can have our own in-house counsellor very shortly. It will certainly go a long way in terms of helping our police officers psychologically to be able to cope at times with the different issues that they encounter. Look for example like in other parts of the world, whenever there is a police-related shooting or when police officers go on a scene, particularly a heinous scene, they must undergo certain hours of counselling before returning to ordinary duties. But in Belize, we don’t do that. A police officer is involved in a shooting and the next day he is back at work. A police officer goes and visits a very heinous scene and next day they are back at work without us having to look at how much psychological damage those situations may have caused the police officer. And so we have to look at things differently. If it is that we want to transform, that must be a part of our transformation to ensure that we provide adequate psychological services for our members in order for them to be able to function at optimal level as we expect them to.”

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