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Monday 23 January 2023
• WA Police Union has released a report on police officer suicides in Australia
• In 2022, 11 serving officers took their lives: equal to the record set in 2019
• For the sixth consecutive year, the rate of suicide was in double digits: the last time this happened was seven years after the end of WWII
• WA Police has the highest police suicide rate among the mainland states
• Six former police officers also took their lives in 2022
Today, the WA Police Union has released a report showing that in 2022, 11 serving police officers in Australia took their lives: equal to the record set in 2019.
The report, put together using public information such as news articles and internal information such as vale notices, shows that the rate of suicide among police officers has increased every decade since the 1980s.
“Each experience of suicide is unique, but the shift away from property crime to violent crime has certainly increased police officers’ exposure to traumatic events,” said WA Police Union Acting President Paul Gale. 
“40 years ago, violent crime accounted for around 5 per cent of crime in Australia. Today, that number is around 20 per cent. The increase has been driven by rising levels of sexual offences, mental health emergencies, and most significantly, family and domestic violence.
“Since 2007, the rate of sexual offences in WA has increased by 30 per cent, and the rate of family assaults in WA has increased by 135 per cent.
“The number of welfare checks carried out by police officers in WA has also increased from 33,000 in 2013 to 53,000 in 2020.
“Given that police officers are the first responders to these types of incidents, this trend has impacted on their overall stress,” said Mr Gale.
According to the report, since 2000, the rate of suicide among police officers has increased two-and-half times, while the rate of officers killed in the line of duty has fallen by more than two-thirds.
“The leading cause of death for police officers in Australia is no longer criminal gangs in the inner city. But rather, the black dog,” Mr Gale said.
“Police agencies in Australia must and can do better to address the scourge of suicide by police officers.
“At the moment, police recruits in Western Australia do not receive any mental health training as part of their 28-week programme at the Police Academy.
“That needs to change. Stress and trauma can arise on day one of the job, so it’s vitally important that police officers are prepared to deal with those challenges.  
“The WA Police Union has been pushing for the ‘right-to-disconnect’ that prohibits police officers from being contacted outside of work unless it’s an emergency.
“Something as simple as respecting the personal boundaries of police officers will go a long way to ensure that they are well rested and recharged before duty.
“Unfortunately, the only way to do that is via a clause within our industrial agreement. Otherwise, supervisors will continue to bug officers regarding pesky administrative matters, which is itself a symptom of police staffing shortages,” said WA Police Union Acting President Paul Gale.
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