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Stabroek News

Signs of psychological pathology
published: Sunday | April 9, 2006

YESTERDAY'S REPORT in The Gleaner that a prisoner at the Montego Bay Police Station was set ablaze by a policeman he accused of being homosexual is as disturbing as it is tragic.

Perhaps there were other factors, such as work or family-related stress that impaired the policeman's judgment.

But his actions, as confirmed by a senior officer, are indicative of a deep-seated pathology that is all too common throughout the society. The slightest provocation results in violence ­ within homes, within schools on the roads and in the workplace.

Reports of the battering of prisoners by police and soldiers surface periodically, suggesting that the security forces themselves are hardly demonstrating much difference in behaviour to the criminals they are sworn to protect the society from.

And regrettably, too, their actions are often overlooked by a wider society that is ambivalent about such matters or who contends that prisoners gave up their rights once they committed an offence.

It is bad enough that someone employed as a policeman should have resorted to that kind of violent reaction to verbal abuse but it is particularly disturbing given that the action would have had to require some time to think through and plan. We do not presume that flammable material is kept in close proximity to lock-ups in police stations to be retrieved easily.

The Montego Bay incident also points to the deep insecurities that drive so many men to attempt to prove their masculinity by battering the women in their lives or in rebuffing any perceived homosexual overtures and/or questioning of their manhood.

The simmering anger and opposition held by many Jamaicans to homosexual relationships perhaps have been fuelled in recent times by the push from overseas for a relaxation in attitude here.

Attempts at educating people to be more tolerant or to deal with their conflicts in non-violent ways will hardly be heeded in situations where they feel deeply offended or violated.

Given the circumstances of the Montego Bay incident, the Jamaica Constabulary Force may need to re-examine the psychological component of the training offered to its recruits and the avenues open to them to deal with anger management and stress control.

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