Experts and officials see the new plan as a positive step, but question whether it will achieve the expected results.
“After reading the guidelines and the name of the text, it seems to be important to provide assistance to those who already have an alcohol or gambling problems. However, the aim should be to help workers to avoid such problems, so that they would be able to solve them and would choose a healthier lifestyle,” said Dr Laima Bulotaitė, professor at Department of Psychology at Vilnius University.
One of the causes of officers’ addictions is stress, with some resorting to drinking alcohol, drugs and gambling to deal with work-related stress.
“The guidelines do not refer at all to what will be done to reduce the risk for officers of fall into alcohol abuse or gambling to reduce this stress,” Bulotaitė said.
The head of the Police Department Communications Division Ramūnas Matonis acknowledged that the guidelines only set out the overall objectives of police management.
“The main position established in the guidelines is that police management encourages and supports the efforts of all staff to deal with substance abuse and gambling problems, and aims to assess the difficulties and find individual solutions,” he said.
As indicated in the guidelines, the authorities are pursuing two key objectives: to reduce opportunities for those who are using psychoactive substances or are addicted to gambling to work in the police and to deter working officers from engaging in such behaviour.
The police authorities’ document aims not only to help police personnel, but also to reduce inefficiency and poor quality police work that risk undermining the image of the police.
The new guidelines propose that if an officer admits to having harmful addictions, commanding officers in the police should be informed with a view to developing a rehabilitation program for the officer, provided that the officer agrees to participate in it and carry out other related obligations.