WE WOULD like to wish Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith well in the wake of his health scare on Sunday. The commissioner complained of excruciating abdominal pain and sought emergency treatment at the St Clair Medical Centre, in the company of his wife, Nicole. He underwent a series of tests and the pain was diagnosed as stress-related. Still, Griffith declined to take leave.
“I do not intend to slow down,” he said. “I intend to go up a gear.”
This narrative is a familiar one. It seems all of our leaders have, at one time or another, fallen ill while in office. While the Commissioner of Police is not a political operative, the public nature of the office and the undoubtedly onerous duties involved place him within the same territory in terms of workload.
As such, Griffith’s scare should be taken as a reminder of the need for all leaders to consider their own frailties no matter the power of public office. It is a reminder that all matters of public administration and governance should never be reduced to a one-man or one-woman show.
In this regard, Commissioner Griffith is rightly at the centre of attention when it comes to the Police Service’s efforts in the fight against crime. But he operates within a larger team and a larger system which must be able to effectively address issues on the basis of rules and procedures which have nothing to do with any cults of personality.
Griffith must know that he will not be effective in meeting his goals if he neglects to take care of his own health. His fervour for the job is admirable and sets an important tone. Indeed, what is needed more in our society is civic-mindedness such as his. But that message is undercut if there is the perception of a leader who is unable to address matters close to home, starting with his own health.
Griffith’s constitutional duties include ensuring “the human, financial and material resources available to the service are used in an efficient and effective manner.” This must comprise systems to ensure officers do not suffer burnout, training for succession, and devising robust contingency plans so that the quality of output is never adversely affected if individual officers must, for whatever reason, attend to personal health matters.
In other words, Griffith must also tackle the issue of institutional strengthening. That starts with making sure officers are given the tools they need to be as fit and healthy as possible. Management of stress is an integral part of that.
Therefore, the commissioner would do well to use his latest health scare as a reminder to all of the need to address this crucial matter which can, in the long run, make a big difference to police productivity.