Police Will Go ‘Crazy’ If They Don’t Get Help

Author: Kolozsi Ádám Original title:  Besokallnak a rendőrök, ha nem kapnak segítséget
Publication: index.hu , Photo: MTI – Boglárka Bodnár Date: 13:37 09/09/2015

Police Will Go ‘Crazy’ If They Don’t Get Help

In the past few weeks, police were facing impossible tasks – they were thrown into deep water without any serious preparation and they were performing tough and rough service continuously without having been given the necessary psychological, cultural or communication skills to cope. They should free themselves from the effects of the six-month hate campaign, the focus of the media, the orders that are changing daily and political irrationality. What might be lurking be in the souls of policemen, how long can they cope and what kind of help do they need?

`The only thing I can say is respect to the Police Cadets’

According to a post shared by many on Facebook, it is the ordinary policemen, who are making superhuman efforts, the ones who remain humane despite their professional and political superiors are the real heroes of the refugee crisis. Yet, there were conflicting photos as well. Civilians can’t see everything and the policeman gas-spraying a refugee child is hopefully only an extreme exception, and let the truth lie with the Syrian man who said, ‘he preferred ten thousand Hungarian policemen to a Greek one’.

The question is how long they can withstand amidst the impossible circumstances. The police coping with the acute emergency situation that developed are unprepared although the situation is severely stressful both emotionally and psychologically.  Right now, it is visible at Roszke that they are dreadfully exhausted. They were deployed to the Southern border from all over the country for a week, they have been afoot from morning to night and they might have had to sleep in the open air after 14-16 hour shifts.

They have to do well, even though they are serving under the command of an unfamiliar commander, at a new location, under new circumstances, far away from their families, while they meet new situations constantly that they have not received the manual for. This is a lot, not only for the 19-20 year-old cadets, who were also commandeered to the scene (what is an even more severe issue is that as graduates they are thrown thrown into the deep end, and the question is how this will affect their way of seeing their profession), but everyone is impatient, more and more irritable and aggressive. As we experienced on Tuesday, `not only where refugees are kept is inhuman, but also what circumstances the police work under `.

Prison experiment with children

This is an explosively dangerous situation, with psychological processes coded into it and that demand professional control. `In the case of disaster relief workers, police and military forces constantly in touch with the refugees, attention should be drawn to the signs of alienation, the condition when perception shifts from   humans to the faceless mass in order to prevent atrocities from happening as a consequence of stress on both sides’, wrote a doctor providing voluntary help and one who accompanied the refugees on the highway and summarized her own diagnosis accordingly. `The previous day was enough on its own for me to diagnose myself with the symptoms of alienation due to coming across such a high number of people concerned. This is a sign of my slight, could be called, physiological and post-traumatic stress syndrome that I recognized so I am trying to get over it by consciously getting some rest in the next two days.

Treating humans as objects is natural self-defense in such traumatic situations and it might occur even in people who would like to help. However, the policemen ordered to the site have neither the opportunity, nor the competence to undergo such conscious self-observation, to draw appropriate conclusion and to perform self-healing. We are left with uncertainty which may result in anything, ranging from humane gestures extending way beyond duty, to weary cursing and confused shouting of nonsense, as the reporter of Index in temporary Kirgiz-refugee-disguise also witnessed.

Such a situation could easily trigger aggression; due to the developing tension blaming the victim or conversely passivity may be frequent – István Síklaki, social psychologist, described the dangers of similar situations to Index (online newspaper – transl.). `I think most law enforcement officers experience a serious dilemma or tension, when their natural empathic reaction on seeing children in exposed situations collide with the task they need to meet. In addition, the legal situation is often unclear – are they dealing with war zone refugees or `economic migrants`? The ill-defined and emotionally charged situation with grave contradictions is a big ordeal for those serving on the front-line’, said the the ELTE, Faculty of Social Sciences and Corvinus University professor.

According to István Síklaki, such a situation could be made easier only if law enforcement officers can work within clear, realistically executable orders and `basic, universal human norms that do not conflict with political and social expectations’. However, this is exactly what is missing in the current situation. Police themselves often do not understand what they should do and why. Although accomplishing orders must be a basic skill for policemen, the ever-changing, unfollowable procedures can test their nerves. They close down the railway station that is soon opened by the standby police, they hold the refugees then let them go – whatever they are doing feels irrational to them, too.

An impossible task

If personnel don’t know whether to trust their superiors or not confuses the whole unit. ‘Trust, however, is essential in such an organization’, says Ferenc Krémer police sociologist, who thinks that such inconsistency may tear the organization apart. `We have to acknowledge that in a situation like this, in 24-hour service it is impossible to work without errors. In addition, refugees (‘migrants’ in original text – transl.) have lost trust in the Hungarian police because of incidents like the train sent to the Bicske refugee camp and also due to insufficient communication’. According to Ferenc Krémer, the police are tasked with jobs that are impossible to solve. `They make people wait in Roszke in the cold, without tents, administration is slow and there are few buses to take them away. Police should keep people still without these devices. Naturally this cannot be solved, just as they couldn’t solve it at Keleti (Railway Station – transl.) either. However it is not the refugees creating this absurd situation for the police, but their leaders and the politicians’. The entry of thousands of refugees can only be approached by a ‘being of service’ mentality according to Ferenc Krémer. However, Hungarian police is not suited to this; its whole structure is based on a punish-control approach. They’re trying to enforce what police and political leaderships think is right just at the moment of speaking. This one way, top-down order-communication is not suitable for handling such a complex, security problem because the problem might be both cultural and social. We are men, but our nerves are about to explode The ‘Menedék Migránsokat Segítő Egyesület’ (Refuge Association Assisting Migrants – transl.) is present in the Röszke collection points, which are becoming unmanageably tense. They mainly provide information to refugees but are also trying to get along with the police, whom they managed to establish a good working relationship with. They generally receive positive feedback about the work of the police that is performed in a professional manner – says Katalin Bognár. Many police officers, however, have indicated to them, too, that they can physically feel tension growing in them. Heightened media attention and a socially hysterical atmosphere represent an extra burden. While police now particularly appreciates recognition from refugees and civilians, they feel very hurt by unjustified attacks. They feel some volunteers offend them when some of them threaten to report them and want to know their identification number, whereas extremist attack them saying, `you hurt soccer fans but not these people`. Policemen with family and small children have a hard time watching families with children lying on the ground. Most policemen try to reduce stress by `natural venting`. Although psychologists of the ORFK (National Police Headquarters – transl.) are on the site, in the ‘male world’ of the police it is not evident that one should consult with a psychologist – even if s/he needs to. ‘It is difficult to ask for help in Hungary in general, and it is even more difficult within the police, where such requests don’t suit professional self-image’, these are Katalin Bognár`s words, but we heard similar opinions from others, too.  In addition to psychological reinforcement, police officers now need social and cultural knowledge and skills as well, if we don’t want the situation to escalate any further. The ‘Nemzeti Közszolgálati Egyetem’ (University of National Civil Service – transl.) introduced a training course sensitizing for cultural differences a few years ago, but today`s policemen could not participate in them as yet and we have not seen how effective these trainings are. In addition, leaders of the police forces are further trained at courses organized by the EU to learn how to treat issues of human rights and fundamental cultural differences. The goal of these `diversity trainings` is to give them better understanding of situations in which a refugee or a person coming from a different culture is. In theory, they should convey this knowledge to their teams, and we can only assume the efficiency they transfer the instruction with. Crash course of the world The Menedék Egyesület (Refuge Association – transl.) provides officers dealing with aliens with complex trainings but there is no time to train the police officers. However, some things can be quickly passed on even before the deployment. Katalin Bognár and her coworkers think providing legal advice and highlighting some basic information is very important in shaping the attitudes of the policemen, but these will reach personnel with increasing difficulty due to the current anti-refugee propaganda.For example-        Asylum seekers are protected-        The majority of migrants are fleeing from a real crisis –        It is not the task of the police to decide who is a real refugee, who should receive authorizationAlso, they try to tune police officers to recognizing cultural differences. They highlight-        Religious aspects like that the argument, ‘if I go over to this country, I will also eat what they have’  may sound good to some, but it will not work because of the ban on eating pork-        A different relationship to hygiene-        A different approach to communications and space, for example, speaking in a loud voice alone does not indicate a wish to attack, or if a migrant comes very close, do not believe that it is the sign of violence against a public official Of course, this is really just the minimum, but it would take at least one week to reinforce communication and conflict management skills. By the way, this would be good for police leadership as well. Since the refugee crisis began, police communication is sporadic, which contributes to the crisis of trust, too. While the whole world is watching Hungarian measures, often it is not communicated. Police should not be abandoned in this; they have operative teams, but not an emergency crew that would have a real professional background to help coordinate organizations, to adequately inform and help the police with psychologists, brochures, infrastructure, and what-not – now, THAT really does not exist in this country.


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