Suicide incidents among police officers prompt stricter gun rules

Suicides of Australian police officers inside their workplaces prompted the Australian Federal Police to issue tighter gun rules.

According to ABC, 4 police officers have taken their lives inside their workplaces in 2 years – two in Melbourne and two in Canberra, despite efforts to improve mental health support.

Police previously were able to check out their guns even while off duty.

“One officer taking their life is one officer too many,” said AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin.

“These are our colleagues. People we know. People who have been in the organisation, by and large, for a very long time. So it’s a difficult time for the AFP.”

A report from mental health support group Phoenix Australia says one in four officers experienced moderate to high psychological distress at any one time. Problems like poor understanding of mental health issues in management and officers reluctant to self-report struggles were identified as well as fears of repercussions for speaking up due to concerns about confidentiality, their pay and career prospects.

Australian Federal Police Association President Angela Smith said the firearm restriction is a short-term fix. She urged the AFP to focus on what other agencies are doing like tracking officers’ exposure to traumatic jobs.

“It’s filled the gap for the moment but is that the answer?” she asked.

“I know it’s not because we’ve had a near miss just recently anyway… restricting people getting to their gun lockers didn’t solve it,” she said.

But Commissioner Colvin said there is no simple solution to the problem.

“It’s a complex issue in policing, and there is no simple solution,” he said.

“I think the risk is we go down a path that sees the next solution as the panacea. It won’t be the panacea. It will take time, there’s no questions about that but… I know we’re making great progress.”

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