Roles of a Police Psychologist in an Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Roles of a Police Psychologist in an Investigation

The following paper describes the roles played by a police psychologist in an investigation of a situation in which a former police officer has been killed. The police force constantly takes risks to save the lives and belongings of the people they serve. This force is known for its bravery and courage but when a situation involves the homicide of a former member of their own group, they are faced with extra trouble as their own safety becomes a concern for them. In addition to that, the pressure from media exacerbates the problem for the police force. In this case, the police force needs psychological support which is given to them by a police psychologist.

Introduction

Police offers face severe stress in their day-to-day routine. They risk their lives and their families in order to fulfill the duty assigned to them. Their bravery is tested every day, but on an occasion, where an ex-police officer is murdered, the bravery of the police officers is tested to its limits. The homicide of the mayor, who was an ex-policeman, further exacerbates the situation as the mayor is a public figure and the story are televised many times. This pressure of media also has an effect on the police force. Keeping in mind the amount of stress that a police officer is faced with, the police psychologist has a critical role in supporting the police officers in this investigation. (Mayhew, 2001)

Roles played by a Police Psychologist

Some of the roles played by the psychiatrist in this type of investigation are:

1. Help the police force in recovering from the post-traumatic stress.

2. Help the police officers in regaining the sense of security in their jobs.

3. Conducting a psychological autopsy. (Scrivner, 1994)

A police psychiatrist is needed in a situation which gives a shock to the police force. The first role of the psychologist is to strive to make the police officers feel normal again. As the murder of one of their own officers would have been a shock to them, the police officers would feel a little insecure about the security of themselves and their family members. The police officers may get PSTD as a result of this incident and thus the police psychiatrist has to intervene using incident debriefing. This method uses a group session of those officers who are affected by the incident. These officers might be showing signs of distress, and thus they are helped by the police psychologist. The police psychologist plays a vital role here as the police officers who are faced with distress, may also abuse or harm the police force and thus the psychologist's help is very important here. (Scrivner, 1994) (Mitchell, n.d.)

In addition to helping the police officers with stress, the police psychologist also has to help the police officers in regaining their confidence back. As this case involves the homicide of a public figure, who was previously a police officer, the police officers tend to lose confidence in their jobs. The thought of their and their family's security naturally overcomes their effort to control themselves and continue with their jobs normally. In some extreme cases, this thought triggers the notion of changing their jobs. This behavior is not normal as the police officers are normally perceived as being brave. The normal psychological training of the police officers is overwhelmed by these fears. The psychologist's duty here is to make sure that instead of surrendering to their fears, the police officers should fight their way out of them. The psychologist can advise the police officers and can also use humor as an instrument to fend off the fear that has prevailed in them. The police psychologist may also use some rituals to strengthen the resolve of the police officers. (Scrivner, 1994)

Another role of the psychologist is to perform a psychological autopsy. A psychological autopsy becomes very important when investigating the murder of a public figure. In the mayor's case, there can be several reasons that might cause the witnesses to give false information. The information given by the witnesses and the statements of the medical examiner have a direct impact on things such as insurance, media perception and the overall reputation of the mayor and the police department. (Scrivner, 1994)

Purpose and Use of a Psychological Autopsy

Psychological autopsy can be a useful aid in determining the causes of the death of a person in detail. The psychological autopsy can be used to help the medical investigator to draw medical statements about a suicide and even a homicide which is ambiguous. The investigator can then use this autopsy to check whether the witnesses are giving the correct information or not. The autopsy is carried out by the psychologist, and the results are embedded with the results of the medical practitioner. In this way, the physical facts are linked with the behavior of the person and it can thus be deduced whether the information given is consistent with the behavior of the person or not. The information on the behavior of the person is gathered by the psychiatrist by interviewing family, relatives and close friends. Further information can be gathered by reviewing the documents and public interviews of the deceased. (CR, 2010)

Advantages of a Psychological Autopsy

Psychological autopsies can be of critical importance in determining the cause of death. As mentioned earlier, it can also help the practitioner in determining the validity of the information that he has received from the witnesses. This help will accelerate the process of the investigation. This acceleration will serve as a great advantage of psychological autopsy as the cases with mass media coverage should be closed as quickly as possible. Failure to wrap up the case usually leads to speculation of media which eventually leads to unrest among people. (CR, 2010)

This unrest has an adverse effect on the stress levels of the police officers involved in the investigation of the case. As mentioned earlier, the police officers are already subject to severe stress, the media speculation deteriorates the psychological condition of the police officers. Psychologically unfit police officers then make the investigation process slower, and the overall problem is exacerbated. (CR, 2010)

Another advantage of psychological autopsy is that the people who are close to the victim are asked questions and as a result they can let out their feelings and relieve their stress somehow. Normally a sudden death of a person leaves his close ones in dejection and gloominess. Psychological autopsies serve as counselling sessions that help the relatives and friends of the deceased, the mayor in this case, to recover from their stress and sadness. It also gives the relatives hope that the investigation will be carried out using the correct information, and thus an accurate result will be drawn from the investigation. (CR, 2010)

Steps in Conducting a Psychological Autopsy

The following steps are taken by the psychologist when conducting an autopsy:

1. Obtaining all the relevant information from relatives and friends.

2. Drawing a hypothesis of events that occurred.

3. Supporting the hypothesis with relevant evidence.

4. Rejecting any hypothesis which is wrong.

5. Giving a written report. (CR, 2010)

The psychologist begins with collecting the information from the people who are close to the deceased. He can talk to the family, relatives and friends of the mayor in this case collecting information about the mayor's behavior. The psychologists may also ask the close relatives and family about any disorder that the mayor was suffering through before the event. The next step requires the psychiatrist to draw a hypothesis of the events that have occurred before and during the incident. This requires the psychologist to draw hypotheses about events that happened before or during the homicide. In the third step, the psychologist supports his hypothesis with relevant evidence and rules out any other hypotheses. Finally, a written report is produced by him which contain information about the event in detail. (CR, 2010)

Information Presented in the Written Report

The final report consists of the results of the autopsy and how the psychologist reached that result. This report must be very accurate as the report will be consulted by the medical examiner in order to determine the mode and cause of death. The medical practitioner will also refer to the report to check whether the information given to him is consistent with the behavior of the deceased or not. All of this information will then be inscribed on the official death certificate. Once the death certificate is made, it is very hard to reopen the case and argue on the manner of death. The accuracy of this report has a high effect on the image of the mayor. (CR, 2010)

Importance of the Written Report

This report can be significant in making the image of the deceased. As the mayor is a public figure, his manner of death will greatly impact his image in public. Manner of death can trigger further media speculation…

Sources Used in Document:

References

CR, V. (2010). Psychological Autopsy -- A Review. Journal of Punjab Academy of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology, 10 (2), 101 -- 103.

Mayhew, C. (2001). Occupational Health and Safety Risks Faced by Police Officers. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. pp. 1-2. http://aic.gov.au/documents/E/D/9/%7BED946A67-E4C8-4C46-A294-9B982325EF4D%7Dti196.pdf [Accessed: 24 Dec 2013].

Mitchell, J. (n.d.). Critical Incident Stress Debriefing. College Park: University of Maryland. pp. 1-3. www.info-trauma.org/flash/media-e/mitchellCriticalIncidentStressDebriefing.pdf [Accessed: 24 Dec 2013].

Scrivner, E. (1994). Controlling Police Use of Excessive Force: The Role of the Police Psychologist. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice. pp. 1-10. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/Digitization/150063NCJRS.pdf [Accessed: 24 Dec 2013].

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