Friday 10 July, 2020

Senior cop livid about JCF ban on official funerals for suicide cops

A senior member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is up in arms with the organisation's stance of denying official funerals to its members who commit suicide.

The senior cop is of the view that the force’s policy in that regard is flawed, especially considering the particularly stressful nature of some of the duties which many police personnel have to do.

"There is an argument in Jamaica that irrespective of one’s status in the constabulary, if there is a suicide, one is not given an official funeral," said the infuriated cop, who requested not to be identified.

"To deny a policeman or woman police honour is a form of disrespect,” he declared. “It will not help the image of the force. It will not strengthen it. It will only weaken its foundation and send a signal that once you are fit and strong, you are ready for the road, (but) when you become disabled, you are on your own, and history and time will tell (in that regard)," suggested the senior cop.

His expressed viewpoint was triggered most forcefully by the recent death of a veteran cop, Senior Superintendent Dermot Lawrence of the Area One Police, who was found hanging from a ceiling by a piece of rope at his Mango Valley home near Montego Bay in St James late last month. Lawrence’s death is believed to have been by suicide.

The upset fellow veteran of the force argued that law enforcement can be a tough job, and the life of a police officer can be extremely dangerous and demanding, given the rigours that are associated with the profession globally, but especially within the high-crime environment and at times intense security issues locally. He said he therefore saw the JCF's policy on suicide as being ironic, as it is not illogical for members of the force to self-annihilate because of job-related stresses.

"From the high crime rate, fatigue due to the long working hours, to the risk of losing their lives in the line of duty, the men and women charged with the responsibility of upholding law and order of the land are often overburdened by the stresses they encounter on a daily basis," the lawman quoted from a past news publication.

Police and military personnel, including senior officers, on the now recurring drill of trying to secure life and property in the perennially volatile Mountain View area of the Kingston Eastern Police Division. 

He recounted that some year ago, a young, distressed cop shot himself in the full view of his colleagues in western Jamaica, and as a result, was denied an official burial.

"There was a situation in Westmoreland a few years ago when, while serving, a young cop, overcome with stress and in an unstable mind, shot himself dead before his colleagues. He was denied an official funeral," the concerned police officer stated.

"In my humblest opinion, the JCF or the Government needs to review that policy, or have it challenged before the court for interpretation.

"It has not been sending a good signal to members of the force serving or retired. All men or women joined the JCF as fit personnel, but things like stress and the after effects of gunshots and other mind-rocking situations and domestic issues at home and work, have blown the minds of many serving members, and they become over-stressed and sometimes kill themselves, not knowing what they did (or are doing),” suggested the concerned cop.

The long hours of work and personal challenges while on duties like those related to the ongoing states of emergency in two police divisions across the country have for some time been cited as factors that have reportedly had negative impact on some members of the security forces.

The seasoned officer of the law said frustration over the force's suicide policy has been heightened by the recent suspected suicide of SSP Lawrence, and he, like many other cops, are hoping that somehow, the late senior policeman will be officially sent off.

Lawrence’s funeral is scheduled for Sunday, August 19 at the Kings SDA Church in Mount Salem, Montego Bay, St James.

"The recent suspected suicide of the senior officer has left a bitter taste in the hearts and minds of members of the force, civilians and his family," the disturbed cop said of his colleague’s death.

"He was a brilliant, colourful officer, who served in a complex area of administration," added the colleague.

Lawrence was in charge of administration at the Area One Police Headquarters in Montego Bay.

Lawrence was believed to have been experiencing health and domestic challenges, and was on leave at the time of his death.

Interestingly, only a day before his body was found hanging, an action of his drew the attention of the police.

Indications are police personnel responded to reports of an explosion or explosions at his home then, and were advised by the senior officer that he had accidentally fired his gun.

The now deceased cop served for many years in western Jamaica, in Hanover, Westmoreland and latterly, in St James. He was noted to have been an all-round individual, who was very efficient at his duties, and extremely dedicated to his job.

His upset colleague argued that despite his believed act of self-destruction, given his outstanding record of service to the JCF, SSP Lawrence deserves an official funeral.

The senior colleague cited precedence in the form of world leaders who committed suicide and were given official funerals in their respective countries.

"Suicide has never been a stranger to the JCF, our country and the world," said the cop in seeking to justify a similar treatment for Lawrence.

Reference was made to long-departed world leaders like Adolf Hitler, Salvador Guillermo Allende and Erwin Rommel.

Hitler was a German politician, demagogue and Pan-German revolutionary who was the leader of the Nazi Party, Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and Führer (supreme ruler) of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945.

Salvador Guillermo Allende Gossens was a Chilean physician and politician who was known as the first Marxist to become president of a Latin American country through open elections.

Rommel, a German general and military theorist, popularly known as the Desert Fox, served as field marshal in the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II.

In reference to the JCF’s policy on suicide among its membership, a member of the Police High Command confirmed that there is indeed, a force policy that relates to death benefits and the relative procedures among the membership. This includes exclusion from any official funeral in the case of suicide.

However, the very senior officer, while not sharing an opinion on the subject matter, said discussions have started in some circles to take a closer look at the policy, as it is felt that it has left the relatives of some deceased cops at a major disadvantage, especially in relation to officers who had outstanding records of service, but may have been pushed to the extreme because of stress related to the very jobs they do.

In relation to the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), a senior officer there would not go into details, but said suicide would not disqualify any pertinent benefit or privilege that is applicable to a soldier.

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