Suicide ideation in police officers

Prateek Goyal
Saturday, 12 May 2018

According to the international analysis, there are two jobs in the world which are most traumatic, one is ambulance work in which the person has to pick up bodies and the other one is police job.  People employed in the police force are subjected to post-traumatic disorders and there is no mechanism in the organisation to reduce the stress level. 
— Suresh Khopade, Former IPS officer

Pune: A towering personality with many high profile cases in his hand, the top cop of Mumbai police, Himanshu Roy was once the most popular face of Mumbai police on television and print media. However, from the last two years, he was not in limelight due to his terminal illness but then his unfortunate suicide on Friday afternoon has sent ripples across the state and has once raised a question on the suicides ideations related to the police jobs.

Roy, the former chief of Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) with his distinctive personality and a tough image, was a 1988 batch officer and has handled high profile cases such as J Dey murder case, Laila Khan murder case, Pallavi Purukayastha murder case and IPL spot-fixing case, 2013.

According to a report published in the international journal of Indian Psychology, police suicide in India is a problem faced by many law enforcement agencies and the problem is often ignored, misunderstood, misrepresented and under-researched.

The report ‘Suicide ideation: Role of Psychological and Social Factors Among Indian Police Officers’ written by Chandigarh-based psychologist Dr Ritu Sekhri states that suicide among members of the police has been described as an epidemic (Violanti, 1996 written by JM Violanti). Studies report that police officers have higher suicide rates compared to the rates of the general population and those of the other profession.

The report further states that the police force in India does not assume a positive image. Defined by a rigid bureaucratic cadre, the police personnel have to work not only to see that crime remains under control but also have to face ‘systematic’ interference from political masters and other influential sectors. On the personal count as well, the police personnel have perennial problems of basic working, living conditions and welfare facilities.

Suresh Khopade, former Indian Police Services (IPS) officer, said, “According to the international analysis, there are two jobs in the world which are most traumatic, one is ambulance work in which the person has to pick up bodies and the other one is police job. People employed in the police force are subjected to post-traumatic disorders and there is no mechanism in the organisation to reduce the stress level. In the police department, there is a cut-throat competition and jungle law works over here.”

“There are lobbies of north Indian IPS officers, south Indian IPS officers; in fact, there are lobbies in the police department which are based on caste. There are limited plum postings and everybody is an aspirant. In order to get those posting, officers have affiliation with political parties. There is a lot of stress element and officers become victim of that. Throughout their career, they have to prove themselves and have to try for better postings. The entire life they fight for power and at one stage, they get bored after which some of them get into depression and end their lives,” added Khopde.

It is significant to note that four IPS officers in Maharashtra have committed suicide at Ratnagiri, Ahmednagar, Pune and Mumbai. Three of them shot themselves whereas one set himself on fire respectively.

Former IPS officer Meera Borwankar said, “In case of junior ranks, constant overwork, family issues and irregular diet all three together have a lethal effect on a policeman. This can lead to depression and further lead to suicide. In case of senior officers, they manage these things better.”

YC Pawar, IPS (Retd) said, “Stress level in police job is more than other jobs. The level of stress is higher at senior ranks as they have larger responsibilities. Odd working hours and family issues leads to depression and stress.” 

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