Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Professor suggests tougher screening of police recruits

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

The government should review the existing police recruitment system to avoid hiring people who may not be fit for the highly stressful occupation, a Central Police University professor, Yeh Yu-lan (葉毓蘭), said after a young female police officer on Thursday killed herself with a standard-issue police pistol.

The National Police Agency (NPA) has said it would not change its policy of issuing handguns to female police officers on the beat or on field assignments, but promised to offer better counseling to staff.

However, Yeh said the NPA's response did not go far enough. She said the agency should conduct a thorough review of its recruitment policy and implement changes to make sure that only mentally fit applicants join the force.

The police officer was only identified by her surname, Tsai (蔡), a 28-year-old graduate of National Kaohsiung University's department of law. She joined the police in 2005 after passing a local police recruitment examination.

Tsai reportedly had told her boyfriend, also a police officer, on the phone hours before her suicide that she had a heavy workload and was under a lot of pressure.

Tsai did not leave a suicide note.

Yeh said Tsai's suicide was not surprising.

“As evidenced in Tsai's case, police work is very stressful ... The incident highlights the importance of recruiting truly qualified people to join the police ranks,” Yeh said.

“Applicants who score high in written tests may not necessarily be able to cope with the stresses of work, life and relationships,” Yeh said.

Police administrators should pay more attention to the mental state and capacity of applicants, Yeh said, adding that only mentally strong and healthy people should be given access to guns.

She said that in Hong Kong, police recruits are required to pass a long-term assessment of emotional control, mental balance, communication skills and real-time judgment.

Attracted by the relatively high pay and job security, an increasing number of young women have entered the local police ranks in the past decade, Yeh said.

As the number of female officers continues to grow, they are no longer limited to desk jobs, but are being given field assignments, which tend to be very stressful, Yeh said.

NPA statistics show that Taiwan has more than 3,400 female police officers, accounting for 5 percent of the force.

Tsai was not the first policewoman to commit suicide. In 2008, an assistant criminal detective killed herself by inhaling charcoal fumes.

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