I am fully aware that we are still in the month of January, albeit near the end already. In my mind, as I am sure in your minds as well, I was just getting over the five o’clock service lag on Christmas day. Nevertheless, the month has flown by and I am tempted to believe that the next eleven months will follow suit.
In my last anguished article, I spoke about the three murders that had occurred by that time. Lo-and-behold, one week later that number has doubled. Apart from being disqualified, thankfully, on the basis of height, I do not wish, at this juncture of our nation’s history, to be a member of the security forces.
One can only imagine the burdens they carry in the execution of their roles. Whether fortunately or unfortunately, I have experienced death over and over in my profession. I never really put myself in the shoes of our officers who have to witness the carnage on our streets and have emblazoned on their minds day after day the lifeless bodies of victims of tragic circumstances. Not only do they have to deal with physical death but the emotional aspect surrounding these deaths can only be draining. I could imagine I would want to pummel a perpetrator of physical abuse against a child, woman or man only to be constrained by professional ethics and conscience.
Having done on-call, which I will forever equate with one of the world’s greatest injustices against humanity, I can imagine how they must feel leaving their loved ones at home to patrol our streets and seas and to keep us safe. There is no faction of our society without rogue members and those who have become complacent in their roles. However, I choose to believe that there are many more men and women who are committed to their jobs.
I had previously written about my damsel in distress episode when the coolant in my aged vehicle decided to find its way out, a mere few feet from the Black Rock police station. At that time I found some bravado to remind the officers on duty that it was their duty to me as a citizen to serve, protect and reassure me. I pointed out that in my particular affliction I required all three of those virtues as quickly as was humanly possible. Whether they found me ridiculous or thought I was on the wrong side of Black Rock, an officer sorted my problem out and I was able to make it safely home.
I am well aware that there are so many negative things that have been reported about the officers in the security forces. As a matter-of-fact, I have witnessed the unprofessional behaviour of an officer in living colour. To say that I was nonplussed is an understatement of epic proportions. Now that I am reflecting on the incident, I regret that I did not make a formal complaint because certainly the behaviour, in my humble opinion, was uncalled for.
I rank police officers, soldiers, coastguard officials, fire prevention officers and any others who are part of the security forces, in the same category as teachers and nurses. Here is why. They seldom get the recognition they deserve and when they decide to put measures in place to improve conditions for themselves, we, the public, cry them down.
They give so much of themselves mostly expecting nothing in return. For them, it must be so difficult to go to a job daily where the persons they serve, for the most part, have such a negative view of them. I am not saying that there are not thousands of people on our island who appreciate our officers. But there are probably just as many who do not.
Here, in our country, there are many things that still warm my heart as a proud Bajan. I vividly recall being in the parking lot of a supermarket one evening and as we were walking towards our car, two police officers were heading in our direction. My son was so excited and timidly waved at the officer who stopped and gave him a knock. My son was over the moon, the officer seemed happy to have made a little boy’s evening. I was thankful that the officer did not have an assault rifle draping his neck as he was simply walking towards a supermarket. We are still blessed as a nation.
On another occasion I joined a tour of the Probyn Street fire station. The Brownies were given the opportunity to sit in the fire truck at the end of their instruction, and as providence would have it the invitation was extended to parents. Well! I took up that invitation, and I climbed into the front of the vehicle, my heart pounding with excitement. I could feel the blood rushing to my head as the traffic was stopped, and the vehicle drove a mere few feet from the building to the side of the road. There was a face-splitting grin on my face. Then came the question, ‘Are you ready?’ Wait a minute… was my scream louder than that of the children in the cab? Unashamedly it was. The officer turned the siren on and I was like a child in a toy store, laughing, clapping, screaming and shouting. My only regret was that we did not get a chance to circle the city. Hopefully, I can get the opportunity to do that someday.
These men and women really do work hard, and I reiterate that I am not in any way saying that there are no bad apples in the bunch. Certainly, there is corruption and indiscipline which can erode the efforts of those who are committed to the tenets of their particular group. It is our responsibility as citizens to show them the respect and appreciation they deserve.
(Rénee Boyce is a medical doctor, a wife, a mother and a Christian, who is committed to Barbados’ development. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)