Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Society: Policeman blames himself for girl's death.

Just read an ST Forum article Public vent not good for police force by a retired police officer that rather disturbed me.

The issue in question is the appearance of a blog entry from a police officer who blames himself for a girl's death when it appeared she may have committed suicide rather than face a court appearance for shoplifting. Apparently, that blog entry is now readable to people granted permission by the blogger. However, I found a couple of other blog articles that talk about it: “Girl's death: Officer blogs about his guilt” and Of Offenders And Guilt.

I wonder how ex-policeman Lionel can consider this to be an impact on the morale of the Police Force. Is our Police Force so fragile that the public expression of trauma by one of its members will cause the force to fray? If anything, the Mas Selamat and prison escape incidents should have hit police morale much harder than this.

Personally, it seems natural for the officer in question to feel traumatized. What he did, however, was a job that he had to do. I feel he would have suffered a totally different crisis of faith if he had chosen to close an eye to the fact that the girl had indeed committed a crime.

What makes me wonder, however, is how the girl was handled by our system once she was formally charged with shoplifting and told to appear in court.

In the US, this is understood by most people to be a minor misdemeanor and that kids *can and will* do something (potentially) criminally stupid at some point in their teenage years. In such cases, it is reasonable to expect the young person to be counseled, told that it was a bad thing they did but it was not the end of the world. Her parents and loved-ones would probably have been present for emotional support.

I can only speculate about the pressure on the poor girl. Did she think it was the end of a meaningful life for her? That she would have a criminal record that ruins her? More frighteningly, would she have been correct thinking this way? Would Singapore society permanently brand someone guilty of what she did as a "rotten character"? Could we have done better?

Anyway, here's another interesting blog response to this incident: Police officers not allowed to be human - Lionel De Souza.

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