IF EVER there were articles that demonstrated how tough it is to be a police officer, it was some published in The Daily Advertiser over the past fortnight.
Last week, The DA reported that “individuals intent on taking their own lives are threatening Wagga police with weapons to provoke the use of deadly force”.
“Police were entangled in two tense stand-offs at the weekend, with emotionally-troubled locals trying to coerce officers to open fire,” the article read.
“While both incidents were resolved peacefully, detectives were left shaken.
“Wagga’s top cop Bob Noble has revealed it occurs on a ‘fairly frequent’ basis.
“Superintendent Noble revealed he, like many other Wagga police officers, had found himself caught in the confronting situation.”
But this article, disturbing as it was, was not the only one which hinted at just how difficult it is to be a police officer.
It would be a rare week that passed without detailing at least one assault on an on-duty officer and The DA has reported at least two in recent days.
As a community, we need to be extremely concerned that two people not only attempted suicide in the same weekend, but attempted to do it by goading police officers into shooting them.
We also need to be very, very concerned about the more generalised dangers our police officers face every single time they clock on for a shift.
When, as a community, we are talking about this issue, we need to question, debate and discuss whether there are enough services for people who are struggling with their mental health and may be considering suicide.
And, equally, we need to make sure that our police officers – the people who run towards the danger that most of us would skitter away from – are both as safe as possible when they’re on the job and supported psychologically when they’re off-duty.
The DA reported that under current arrangements, all police officers who may encounter mentally troubled individuals are required to undergo a two-day training course twice a year.
That just doesn’t seem like enough does it?
It just feels like we are failing to meet needs all around.
Individuals with mental health issues would appear to be falling through the cracks, while at the same time frontline police officers are left to not only face potential harm, but also given what appears to be only the basic minimum in support services.
Yes, I know, it’s complicated and yes, I know, it’s expensive, but we are talking about human beings, so it’s hard to put a price tag on mental health services.
Perhaps it would help if we stopped treating “suicide” as a dirty word and we began to really encourage people who are struggling with their mental health to put their hands up and ask for help instead of being left alone in the shadows.
If two people in Wagga in one weekend can attempt “suicide by cop”, it would appear a change to the way we approach mental health is seriously overdue.
It’s a big, messy, complicated issue, but the old-school approach of never talking about suicide is no longer the right approach.
We also need to make sure we are, as a community, ensuring the people we entrust with keeping us safe are, themselves in turn, being kept out of harm’s way.