A former chaplain in the Namibia Police Force has suggested that there is a need to institute counselling for professionals in the field to help law enforcement officers cope with stress both on and off the job.
He expressed this view in light of the recent brutal killings and GBV assault cases that have taken place which have raised immense worry among members of the public with many left to ponder over their safety around police men.
Speaking to a former Chaplain from the Namibian Police, Michael Kangunga who has been counselling police officers for over 17 years, it became apparent that there was a serious need for intervention.
He said intense pressure, irregular timing and intense work conditions often force the police to see the worst of humanity and the lack of an outlet to vent their emotions exacerbates the situation.
Last month a series of murders and women abuse cases were reported, many cases involved police offers.
A member of the Namibian Police VIPP, Matheus Patrick stands accused of hitting his victim, Rosina Shikongo’s head several times against a wall at Single Quarters after he heard that Shikongo had been talking to the father of her kids from a previous relationship.
Driven by allegations of infidelity, an officer from the Special Reserve Force while off duty armed himself with a revolver and descended on his lover, Alina Kakehongo at a Windhoek supermarket and shot her in the head. Believing that she was dead, he turned the gun on himself.
Also, a police officer from Koes Police station, Richard Dreyer also stands accused of domestic violence.
It is suspected that the accused dragged his wife by her braids out of a club where he had found her and maliciously assaulted her. An eight month pregnant woman in Mariental was assaulted by a police officer with the intent to do grievous bodily harm. It is alleged that the accused beat the woman on several occasions with his fist and a police belt.
Kangunga who also conducted a research study on stress in the Namibian Police provided insight on why police officers in many cases kill or harm their partners. Kangunga revealed that the high stress levels that exist in the police force play a major role.
He notes that there have been cases where police officers who have been serving the force for a number of years tend to become frustrated due the fact that they do not get promoted but new members who join the force tend to move up the ladder quicker than them, which then frustrates the officer.
“This leads them to wanting to drink excessively because they cannot come to terms with why a new recruit would get a promotion and not them.
They then start arguments while intoxicated with their partners at times, and these fights spiral out of control.
This may sound like an unreasonable reason but we often overlook it as a not good enough reason to do so but in the mind of someone who is stressed it is” he said.
Kangunga also highlighted that the officers who tend to use their rifles on their partners when frustrated hardly ever have anyone to talk to before they carry out these brutal crimes.
“Police officers are just normal human beings and this does not make them any different, stress effects any and every one.
I have observed that social and spiritual workers within the police force are limited and that there is a need to get more councillors in different regions that these officers can turn to.
This is important because crime does not only happen in the Khomas regions where there is an availability of councillors” said Kangunga. He further explained that it was however also unfortunate that police officers at times, when offered counselling services do not make use of these services because they do not deem themselves as a danger.
He stated that in most cases officers show signs and their colleagues take note of the signs, but do not regard it as serious.
“The colleagues who find themselves among the frustrated members of the force need to be agents of assistance, they need to refer those people to councillors because if a person is stressed they cannot think right on their own.
There is this notion, that people tend to use by claiming that they did not realise that an officer might have had problems this however is not always true, people show signs, their behaviours change and they tend to be angry for no reason these are some of the symptoms that one can pick up. People should not ignore these signs” explained Kangunga.
Clinical psychologist, Birgit Schulze-Moormann who has also assisted in prison a few years ago highlighted that there are various aspects that trigger people to kill; including police officers.
“It comes down to personality, stress, personal issues, the environment they have grown up in and at times things that they have deep seated negative feelings” said Schulze-Moormann.
She further notes that murders tend to differ and at times when they carry out these crimes of killing and assault which impacts them differently.
“If he/she is a psychopath it will not impact them in any way but for instance if it has to do with passion killing then it might destroy and destabilize them totally because they kill because of a passion that has overcome them in an instance and then at a later stage realise that what they did was wrong” she explained.
Schulze-Moormann urges people who experience episodes of wanting to kill to seek psychiatric medication, psychological help, counselling and any type of treatments that could help stabilize them.
Psychologists for police
Nampol Deputy Commissioner Edwin Kanguatjivi said although the police force has a Gender and Social Welfare directorate that have councillors and psychologists, sometimes problems are not brought to the attention of those that have to provide the much needed counselling services. Police officers are stressed and they go through personal issues and by the time they end up carrying out assaults it’s sometimes too late.
“We are a force of about 17 000 members, I cannot say that there are not one or two members that would be abusive to their partners nor can I say that there is not any police member that suffers from post-traumatic depression.
You can be a constable who has just been recruited and then get sent to attend to an accident and your first scene is to come across someone who had been beheaded.
As a constable you will have continue due to the nature of your work but that trauma stays with you.
I do agree that there must be mechanisms that can identify and treat these traumas but the provision has already been made,” he said.
But sometimes, Kanguativi said, following an internal probe into the matter it emerges that the police officer who stood accused was innocent and the lady who had laid the charges lied because she wanted to destroy his career. This happened recently.
“The officer afterwards came with evidence that incriminated the complainant.
The public has this notion of always concluding assault matters when we hear about them without waiting for the investigation to be completed, then we conclude that the police are abusive”.