CoP Jacob: Conflict resolution training can save lives

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob (front, second fon left) with participants and facilitators of the recently concluded conflict resolution training programme at the Police Training Academy in St James on Thursday. – Photo by Jeff K. Mayers

Acting Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob on Thursday stressed the importance of proper conflict-resolution training for police officers as minor grievances can sometimes escalate to dangerous situations.

Jacob made the remark at a graduation ceremony for 31 police officers who completed conflict-resolution training at the Police Training Academy, St James.

The officers were trained by the Officium Training Ltd on how to defuse dangerous situations and mediate on contentious issues between people.

Jacob said while police focus primarily on crime-prevention operations, skills such as mediation were valuable tools to first responders in times of emergencies and could potentially save lives.

He said the training offered during the three-day programme focused on complaints officers may receive from the public, which may not necessarily qualify as a criminal offence but a dispute which may require some mediation.

Referring to the murder of 47-year-old Cepep worker Brian Belgrave who was reportedly killed for accidentally cutting a chadon beni plant in Morvant last week, Jacob said he hoped the skills learned would enable officers to engage the public and prevent such incidents.

“Sometimes we are unaware these important skills directly feed into policing.

“When we do some analysis we recognise that some of our serious crimes, such as offences against the person and sometimes murders, when you trace it you will see there may have been reports based on some quasi-criminal matter which doesn’t fall into the realm of police charging or advising. And how it was handled wasn’t handled effectively, and a year or two years after it resulted in death.

Jacob said, for the year thus far there were 18 murders related to domestic incidents within families and between members of the same community. He is optimistic the training would expand the capabilities of the police in tackling such issues before they escalated.

Joanne De Coteau, founder of Officium Training Ltd, said she was impressed with the willingness of the officers to learn more about mediation and felt the experience would sharpen their skills in the field.

Speaking with Newsday after the programme, co-ordinator for the University of the West Indies mediation programme Anne Diaz said there are to begin a programme where police officers would work with mediation graduates to better understand conflict resolution and incorporate these skills in their interactions.