All the Talking
Timeline: -5 weeks to launch
The next meeting had Ken worried. Not that he had anything to really worry about, but it was the very common anxiety of meeting with a mental health professional. Though he's worked with them before on various assignments, the irrational worry that every conversation with a 'shrink' would result in some analysis not in his favor was there in the back of his mind. But, as he would be a one ship legal system in the Delta Quadrant, it was important that he have a decent, qualified and, overall, competent counselor on the ship.
Not just for the ship's crew, but for forensic evaluations for pre-trial matters, magistrate ordered counseling and anything else that may come up. A counselor on the Molon Labe would do more than just the occasional guidance or 'tune up'; more than just offer a sounding board for the ship's captain (which he still had a hard time remembering was him).
The qualifications necessary for this assignment whittled down the list of candidates considerably, the list was further shortened by those who were available for the assignment. Which left him at his next appointment. Dr. Carys Alder. Lieutenant junior grade in the service, doctor by education and with a file that suggested a passion for forensic and legal counseling, but with her doctorate she was qualified as a general counselor as well.
Still, he worried about her opinion of him. Not the interpersonal relationship opinion but her professional opinion. But, there was no hope for it.
"Doctor Adler?" he asked as he stopped by an office, coming to her to show his willingness to work with her - he hoped. He didn't really know how she would take his coming to her rather than the other way around.
Hearing her name, Carys Adler stood from her desk and came around it to offer her hand and a warm smile. "Yes, sir. You must be Commander Lawe?" In truth, she already knew the answer as the yeoman at the front desk had already warned her he was looking for her. The news surprised her, as when she found out she'd been selected to interview with him for a position aboard his ship, she expected to have to come to him. For a few seconds, she wondered if he was here to tell her the position had already been filled, but then again, the redhead reasoned he could tell her just as easily in a form communiqué.
"Good, found the right place. Only took three tries. Don't spend a lot of time roaming around the counseling section of anyplace," he said, realizing he was babbling. He made a conscious effort to silence himself and take a breath. "Sorry, I came down here to discuss the position of counselor on the Labe. I hope this is a good time. If not, I am more than happy to make an appointment and come back?" the last he added quickly, too quickly perhaps.
Adler was surprised by the other's demeanor, though years of experience helped her school her features to appear impassive. This was not what she expected from an experienced law enforcement officer, and though Lawe's nervousness didn't make her think any less of him (and was in fact a bit endearing), she couldn't help but wonder whether his nervousness around her would impact her future employment. It didn't occur to Carys he would be nervous because of her profession, though perhaps it should have. After all, it wasn't an uncommon reaction, but to Adler, offering psychological services was just what she did. That she loved it and considered it who she was to a large degree didn't make her any scarier in her own eyes.
"Actually, sir, your timing is perfect," she replied, gesturing for him to take his seat in her reception area opposite her. "I'm sorry you were delayed coming to me. Had I known, I would've been happy to meet you elsewhere. I know you must be extremely busy getting the crew together and making sure everything with the ship is in order. I'm honored you would come to my neck of the woods," she added with a smile.
"Not at all," Ken said, taking the offered seat. "Just my way of showing that every member of the crew is important."
Ken sighed, still worried that he was going to find himself bouncing off padded walls because he was in a jacket that allowed him to scratch his own back. But, he had to soldier on. "You realize we are not a typical Starfleet vessel? We have a much more limited scope in our duties?"
Carys nodded and focused on his immediate question, though his discomfort wasn't lost on her. She wondered if he was distracted by something else and decided not to push him on it. "Yes, sir. Although I've not worked with law-enforcement personnel within Starfleet before, prior to joining Starfleet, I worked with local law enforcement agencies as a therapist/victim advocate, so I'm not completely unfamiliar with how all of this works."
"Ah, well that makes sense then. Most of the other counselor candidates I've spoken with have given me more of a cozy office, analyzing everyone all the time bleeding heart kind of vibe. I understand that Starfleet attracts that type more and more, but on this ship, we need people who can be objective and fair to both sides. As a counselor on this ship, you may be called upon to provide services to criminals. How would that conflict with your past history?"
Carys didn't know how to take his words at first. She certainly understood the importance of being objective and not overly emotional, but the bleeding heart label had certainly been applied to her at different points in her career, and she'd never considered it a bad thing, particularly because the people doing the labeling belonged on the other extreme of the spectrum.
"What you are asking of me is not at all different from what I've done as a civilian and during my time in Starfleet. I've worn many hats, including that of a victim advocate, therapist, and evaluator for criminal offenders. I won't pretend that I haven't found my work with trauma survivors more rewarding than work with hardened criminals, but I have enough experience and professional control to realize all members within the system are deserving of the best support available."
"Would it surprise you to know there are counselors out there that determine a person's guilt is all they're about?" Ken asked. "Which is why it's been a chore to fill this position. I need someone who remembers they are a counselor, to victims and offenders alike. Especially on a ship like this where offenders may be around longer than normal."
Adler nodded. "I understand, sir, and not only do I have the education and training to provide what you're looking for, I'm prepared to do so," she offered sincerely. "I do wonder what you mean by offenders being around longer than normal? I would expect offenders, once they are found and apprehended to be transported to a penal facility. I don't quite follow how a more mobile starship would keep prisoners long-term."
"That would be because of our area of operations," Ken said, decidely more relaxed the more he spoke with the counselor. "We'll be stationed in the Delta Quadrant, where the Federation hasn't built all the services we enjoy here in the Alpha and Beta quadrants. Plus, we'll be out for weeks at a time. Anybody we pick up during that time will have to be held aboard until we can either make port or rendezvous with other ships."
Carys nodded. His explanation made sense but she also knew practically speaking, it was going to be a lot to manage. Essentially, they'd be a floating police department with a jail besides. "It sounds like we'll be a mobile criminal justice system in space. Naturally, security will be a major concern for me as well as everyone else, especially if crime survivors will be expected to come aboard for any investigative or legal proceeding."
"That is pretty much the idea. The Federation is very concerned about the number of fugitives that have already absconded to the Delta Quadrant, feeling as if they can disappear there. It puts a bad impression of the Federation there, or a further bad impression depending on the interactions with the Voyager crew. Our job will be to show the Federation is very concerned with law and order."
"That makes sense," Adler agreed. "That said, my intention is to be candid with you and the Starfleet brass if I believe an offender is not psychologically competent to understand the charges against him or her. I understand the importance of justice, and to that end, I don't intend to sacrifice good practice for the sake of appearances and good PR."
Ken couldn't help the frown that briefly crossed his face. "Counselor," he started, then stopped and took a deep breath - giving himself time to phrase his words correctly. "I, like you, took a certain oath. The Labe will be a Starfleet vessel, a part of the security portion of the United Federation of Planets. Where we go, the Federation goes. Where the Federation goes, the Federation Constitution goes - the same one we both swore to uphold and defend. This ship will operate just as any other arm of the justice system. If, in your qualified opinion, an offender is incapable of standing trial then other arrangements need to be made."
"I appreciate you saying so," Adler replied with a nod. "It's not my intention to come across accusatory, it's just that I've had some experiences working alongside law-enforcement personnel where there was a definite clash between what I did and what they expected. Everything would be fine as long as I certified someone was perfectly sane at the time they committed a crime, but as soon as I expressed doubt in other cases, suddenly I was the 'bleeding heart shrink' that couldn't be trusted. I have a great deal of respect for what's asked of law enforcement officers, and it's not my goal to make their lives harder. It isn't easy at times wearing all hats that I do, but I am committed to being the best advocate I can be, whether it's for a crime survivor, an offender, or a member of my own team."
"Bleeding heart counselor," Ken repeated the words with a bittersweet smile. He couldn't recall every last occassion where he'd used that exact phrase, or some very close to it with the same meaning. Usually when he was upset over a decision made regarding a fitness for duty or fitness to stand trial. "Rest assured, Counselor, that the Federation gaurantees will be fully in force on this ship. Besides, it can't be that often, considering how hard it is to prove the M'Naughton Rule in order to absolve a person of the responsibility of their actions. It may happen, but if it does and there are problems over it, I'd want to know immediately. Especially if a law enforcement officer begins to forget his role in the justice system and decides that they're the ones to make the final decision of fact."
"I appreciate your assurances, sir," Carys replied sincerely. "While disagreements over whether a suspect truly understood what he or she was doing at the time was wrong may be cause for conflict, I suppose what I'm hoping for is your help in creating a climate in which psychological services are seen as valuable resources by members of the law enforcement team. I'm not suggesting this to assuage my own personal insecurities, but because I know how detrimental it can be for any such officers to suffer in silence after a trauma simply because they don't want to endure the stigma of seeking support from a bleeding heart shrink, so to speak. I recognize the crew will take their cues from you, and as such, I would appreciate your help in setting a tone that will encourage members of the team to seek support regularly and will discourage members from rejecting such an idea or otherwise ridiculing it."
Of course, Adler understood the gravity of what she was asking him. Depending on his own experiences and attitudes with seeking psychological support, she could very well be asking him to challenge his own reactions. Upholding the rights of the accused was one thing, but pledging to seek support from a therapist as a matter of professional routine was quite another.
That make Ken go quiet for a moment as he felt uncomfortable. He understood what she was saying and how there shouldn't be shame, stigma or negativity associated with the use of a counselor. The Four knew there were times when he probably should have seen a counselor but...didn't. There were also times when he was put in a position, unfortunately, to force the issue with friends and fellow security officers. "I'm not sure how to help with that," he finally admitted. "I understand what you're saying and, yes, intellectually I know the value of what you offer but..." He sighed. "I can't force anyone to willingly comply with the process, just order that they attend."
"I wouldn't expect you to force anyone to comply with seeing me. Ultimately, what people say or don't say to me in a professional capacity is their choice, as are the consequences that follow," Adler replied. "Besides seeing you regularly calling on my department to address mission related tasks, I think it would go a long way if you would make a point to address the team and any potential stigma associated with seeking help. Taking an opportunity to address the issue before it becomes necessary for any one of them to see me not only would demonstrate how seriously you take the issue, but it would also read more genuine than if you waited to say something when one of the team needs help. Also, if you could say something whenever you happen to hear a negative comment or bad joke about shrinks or people getting help, that would help to change the culture a bit, I believe."
Ken smiled again. "Well, Counselor, as you're part of the senior command team, I will be calling on your advice often I suspect. Especially when it comes to running a starship. Running a fugitive team? I'm down with that, but a starship? Yeah, I'll admit to some trepidation there. But someone in Starfleet thinks I can do it, so I'll do it. As for comments? True hazing or harassment of any kind will not be tolerated against anyone on this ship. That will include the civilian court staff as well as any inmates we have in the brig. Of that guarantee I can make one hundred percent. But, we'll work on the stigma best we can."
Carys smiled. "That's all we can ask, Commander. I don't expect one person or even a handful of people to erase the stigma completely or change a culture that lasted for hundreds of years, but I'd like to believe we can all do our part. It means a lot to me that you will have my department's back, sir."
Here he actually considered if maybe he shouldn't consider it a policy to have, at least, the more senior of the staff go through a session or two with the counselor, just to get a baseline.
"Well, Counselor...oh, wait, sorry, my presumption. How do you prefer to be addressed?" Ken asked, just now realizing the presumptions he was making. She was also a Starfleet officer and earned her rank as well. It was rude to be presumptive on the form of address.
"Counselor or Doctor is fine when we're being formal," Carys replied. Truth be told, no one had bothered to ask her what she preferred to be called. How people chose to address her usually said more about them than it did her. "I find Counselor is less confusing than Doctor for most people. Though Doctor is accurate, it saves me from having to explain why I don't carry a medical tricorder with me everywhere I go," she added with a smile. "Although feel free to call me Carys when we're alone if you'd like. You'll find I'm not a very formal person as an individual, but I understand the importance of titles when it comes to establishing boundaries."
"Okay, Counselor," Ken said defaulting to his standard norm. "I'll look forward to see how things shake out once we get the ship going. I don't envy you all the hats you'll be wearing aboard. But if there comes a time when you need assistance, help or just a breather, I'm sure you'll know where my office is." He sat forward. "But, since I've had my interview, I should ask if you have any questions?"
Carys shook her head. "I'm sure I'll have many questions in the coming days, but right now, I can't think of anything I need to know to move forward. I'm accustomed to wearing many hats, sir, but I appreciate your continued support."
"I shall do my best to ensure that at least one of those hats is comically oversized with bright yellow and purple feathers all over it," Ken said as he stood, preparing to go to his next appointment.
Carys laughed. "Now who can resist an offer like that?"