There was good news for unemployed youths across the country last week. Nigeria News reported that the Police intended to employ 6,000 officers nationwide. All candidates must pass several screening processes including mental test or a psychological evaluation among others.
The police recruitment mental test attracted the most noise from public analysts. That is understandable if you consider some of the atrocities the police get up to in and around the around the country.
Allegations of serious crimes against the police, whether senior or junior officers, are common in the country. No day passes without a report or allegation of serious crimes committed by them.
Colluding with violent criminals, blackmailing innocent people, extorting members of the public, illegal searches of people’s homes and property, illegal arrests and framing innocent people are just a few of the misdemeanors leveled against the police by Nigerians.
The #EndSARS campaign that trended across the country didn’t happen in isolation. It was simply that the special Anti-robbery Squad of the police took harassment of innocent members of the public to a new level.
It was a cry from a nation that was simply fed up with the police in general.
If you have ever been at the receiving end of police brutality or crime in Nigeria, you would be left wondering about the mental state of a group task with ensuring public safety.
Though the police are a civil force, they are anything but civil in the way they engage with the public.
Taking all these into consideration, the police recruitment mental test or psychological evaluation of intending officers should be the most important test.
Assuming the tests are done professionally, this should be the first step in weeding out candidates who are mentally unfit to be part of the police force. Perhaps, it is the lack of a comprehensive mental test in the past that is responsible for the series of unfortunate events between the police and the public.
In Nigeria, we don’t give mental issues the attention it deserves. Mentally unstable people are either ignored or left alone to deal with the problem themselves.
Even if there is a desire to deal with the problem, people generally resort to places of worship or religious institutions for redress.
The assumption here is that the problem is spiritual and that is the only way to deal with it effectively. That is wrong on so many levels.
In modern medicine, mental health issues are usually given the same attention as physical or pathological problems. Sustained treatment is administered until the patient gets better.
The thing about most people with mental health issues is that they look normal and act normal. Only in extreme cases or under severe stress do the symptoms become obvious.
In a country like Nigeria where there are lots of frustrations over so many social and economic problems, it is easy for someone to become frustrated and unbalanced.
It is safe to say that many of the young people who would attend the police recruitment are mentally unstable due to the prevailing socio-economic problems in the country.
Also, issues such as drug abuse, family and peer pressure, and low self-esteem could contribute to mental instability.
So the importance of the recruitment mental test cannot be overstated. The job that would be thrust upon them requires a level of calm that must be above average.
Everybody agrees that you would never give the job of protecting the public to a mad person. In the same vein, the job of the police, which is basically public safety, should only be placed on the shoulders of people whose physical and mental are beyond reproach.
Even a slight aberration in a candidate’s mental test should be enough to disqualify them. Because it is very likely the problem might escalate under pressure at any time. And we all know police work is full of pressure.
Conducting a mental evaluation should not be enough though. How about periodic tests to make sure the successful candidates’ mental state had not experienced a drastic shift in the negative direction?
These things happen even in regular jobs. One day, somebody is apparently completely sound; and the next day, the same person is off the rails.
Even if periodic mental tests cannot be possible, police officers who have been repeatedly reported for committing crimes must be evaluated before been send back on to work.
An internal investigation to determine the veracity of the allegation is not enough, especially for repeat offenders. The indicted place officer should be sent to a psychiatrist to unravel the state of the officer’s mind.
And if the results of such mental test show a deviation from the norm, the officer should be recommended for treatment. And if possible, less stressful duties that completely eliminate constant interaction with the public be assigned to the officer.
The same protocol might as well be extended to police officers already serving.
Increasing the psychological evaluation of officers at the right time and circumstances would definitely improve the quality of service they provide.
Naturally, the harm the cause to themselves and members of the public would reduce significantly.