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General News | Feb 17, 2005

EDITORIAL: Screen Security Personnel

Ghanaian Chronicle

There have been in recent times, several reports of security personnel engaging in deviant behaviours that get us wandering if we are ever going to be safe.

Security men have been cited in incidents of armed robbery, maiming and cold-blooded murder. These are not normal behaviors. That persons who the state has provided weapons for to protect society, turn these weapons on the very society that pays them as well, should be of serious concern to all of us. Not even when they turn the guns on themselves. Not only is it a waste of the country's resources; every single life lost is one life too many for this country.

The tragic incident that occurred close to the Castle, where an officer who was to secure the seat of the Presidency, turned his gun on civilians, before committing suicide must get us doing some serious thinking.

The questionable acts that some of our men and women in uniform involve themselves in, raise questions as to how we recruit these persons. For persons who we would entrust our very lives and safety with, there is the need to have established their psychological state.

Resilience is a very important asset that every security person must necessarily possess. Even though there is no art to tell the mind's construction in the face, as Shakespeare tells us, we are fortunate to have psychological tests that can determine one's state, and the potential to withstand or crumble under stress or provocation.

The line between sanity and insanity is so thin that most of us at one time or the other cross over to the other side. However, it is the frequency at which we do this and the intensity or duration of it, that indicates whether we need help or not.

In some jurisdictions, it is ensured that persons who belong to an elite force, undergo specialized examination and training in order to guarantee that guns are not handed over to persons with a high potential to rob, maim or kill. Such persons are at times even set apart from the rest of society, to insulate them from the pressures and stress the wider society faces.

We have been told about the existence of a special VIP protection unit within the security service. We are aware that the Castle is a VIP location, and therefore assume that personnel there would belong to this specialized unit of the service. How sad it would be if they are not.

Incidents like what happened near the Castle only remind us of things we have left undone. In the light of the growing incidents of these deviant behaviors that characterize the conduct of some of our security personnel, there is the need for us, as a nation, to demand that these men and women undergo psychological appraisals, not only at the time of their recruitments, but also periodically.

Of course, this is not to intimate that the diagnosis of any such traits in even its slightest state must precipitate the flushing out of such persons. We must admit we live in a society which is full of stress due to the general social and economic conditions.

Therefore a certain level of agitation may surely be tolerable. The need for the screening is important so as to identify those who would need help, for the necessary assistance to be given them.

Most importantly the psychological screening would help identify those with psychopathic traits so we do not use our hard-earned foreign currency to buy weapons for our protection only to hand over to future killers. Guns don't kill, it is human beings who do.

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