It’s OK to cry: NSW police chief


Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione speaks about Police Suicide and including the names of those Police who suicided due to job pressures, being memorialised on the NSW Police Wall of Remembrance – 27 October 2016 on ABC radio.


It’s OK to cry: NSW police chief

Edmund Tadros
May 1, 2007

A culture of not seeking help, and young officers being forced to deal with traumatic incidents, are just two reasons behind mental health problems within the police ranks, NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney says.

He said today that 14 officers had killed themselves in the past seven years, including six who were on duty at time and another eight who had left the force.

“The police culture and the Australian male ethos make it very hard for people to ask for help,” he said.

“I keep saying to my officers it is OK to cry.

“We are not made of steel. We are not made of concrete. We are human beings.”

He said officers were confronted with horrific crime scenes and other dramas on a day-to-day basis, with child abuse cases perhaps the most traumatic.

“We have to be aware of these issues and understand and appreciate the magnitude of the job undertaken by our officers, particularly our younger officers,” he said.

“By that I mean younger in service officers. They’re undertaking work now that as a young policeman of 10 years’ [service] I wasn’t undertaking at all. And, they are doing it within one or two years of coming into the Police Force.”

The commissioner said that the force was putting into place training to help senior police identify officers who might need assistance. This was being done through the Black Dog Institute.

Last night a police officer surrendered to his colleagues after a dramatic three-hour siege during which heavily armed officers surrounded a Sydney police station.

Streets were cordoned off around the Earlwood police station, in Sydney’s inner west, as officers negotiated with their upset colleague inside.

* Support is available for anyone who may be distressed, by calling SANE Helpline 1800 18 7263 or Lifeline 131 114.




When thin blue line snaps

Edmund Tadros
May 2, 2007

THE mental health of police is in the spotlight after the Commissioner, Ken Moroney, revealed 14 NSW officers have committed suicide in the past seven years and another 200 officers are on mental stress leave.

The number of suicides is double that of previous reports, with more officers dying by their own hand than by any other cause while on duty.

Speaking the day after a 39-year-old senior constable surrendered to his colleagues at Earlwood after threatening to kill himself, Mr Moroney said police officers were still reluctant to ask for help.

“The police culture and the Australian male ethos make it very hard for people to ask for help,” he said. “I keep saying to my officers ‘it is OK to cry’. We are not made of steel. We are not made of concrete. We are human beings.”

The nature of police work, where officers were confronted with horrific crime scenes and other dramas on a day-to-day basis, made them more vulnerable to mental problems, he said.

The force was now running a pilot program to help senior police identify officers who might need assistance with their mental health, Mr Moroney said.

The program will be run by the Black Dog Institute. He said a range of other initiatives, including peer support and an employee assistance program, were also offered to officers.

“Particularly to my male colleagues, I would simply say … if you’re showing the signs and symptoms, if you feel stressed, there are internal mechanisms with which we can deal with that,” Mr Moroney said.

“You wouldn’t feel embarrassed if you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t feel embarrassed if you had the measles or a cough or a cold. Don’t feel embarrassed because there is another aberration of a health process.”

Six NSW officers have taken their lives while on duty in the past seven years, five committing the act within a police station. A further eight former officers have also killed themselves over the same period, some within months of leaving the force.

The Opposition police spokesman, Michael Gallacher, said the Government was not doing enough. “Time and time again, this Government has been warned of the need to provide enough resources to support front-line troops, and they continually ignore these calls for help,” Mr Gallacher said.

He pointed to a 1999 Ombudsman report, Officers Under Stress, which recommended support be offered to all officers exposed to traumatic incidents and methods to spot officers who exhibit signs they are not coping.

A spokesman for the Minister for Police, David Campbell, said the Government was supporting police with mental health issues.

“The Iemma Government is committed to supporting front-line police through the Commissioner’s initiative to train 200 senior officers in recognising the signs of depression and other mental health issues.”

Finding help: police can call 1300 361 008. Lifeline: 13 11 14



Spotlight on police mental health

May 1, 2007


NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney has moved to educate officers about recognising mental health problems, after a suicidal policeman was saved from harming himself.

The 39-year-old officer was involved in a three-hour stand-off with his colleagues at a Sydney police station yesterday before surrendering to negotiators.

The senior constable had taken his service pistol and put it in his mouth as he sat alone inside his car.

However, a despairing telephone call for help from the highway patrolman to another officer brought colleagues to the scene.

Seven NSW police officers have committed suicide since 2001, Southern Cross Broadcasting said today.

And just last month, 44-year-old ACT police chief Audrey Fagan was found dead in a Queensland hotel room after her suspected suicide.

Mr Moroney said the police force would now take a two-pronged approach to mental health.

An existing mental wellness and checking program, targeting specialist officers dealing with child abuse and road trauma, would be expanded in “a bottom-up approach”, Mr Moroney told Southern Cross Broadcasting today.

“At the same time I’ve issued directions that everybody from the commissioner down will undertake a program being delivered by the Black Dog Institute.

“My intention is that by the end of the calendar year, the top 200 senior police will be trained by Black Dog in recognising the signs and symptoms and the signals associated with mental ill-health.

“We will expand that program as part of a top-down approach.”

Black Dog’s website says it is an educational and clinical organisation dedicated to improving understanding, diagnosis and treatment of mood disorders.

* Support is available for anyone who may be distressed, by calling SANE Helpline 1800 18 7263 or Lifeline 131 114.




Suicidal officer with a gun, but this time tragedy averted

Les Kennedy and Ben Cubby
May 1, 2007

THE "Perhaps it was a cry for help by the officer that has prevented this from ending tragically" … police in yesterday's stand-off.desperate officer arrived at Earlwood police station yesterday afternoon via a rear courtyard, got his service pistol, returned to his car and put the gun in his mouth.

But a crucial phone call saved him. Minutes earlier, the officer, a 39-year-old senior constable with the highway patrol, had phoned a fellow officer in despair.

This call, about 2.15pm, generated immediate confusion, as police prepared for a siege. Soon the area around Earlwood’s highway patrol headquarters was cordoned off and swarming with about 50 police, including members of the State Protection Group and an armoured van.

Negotiators were brought in, as hundreds of onlookers crowded the Earlwood shopping strip.

After a “delicate and sensitive” stand-off lasting nearly three hours, the negotiators persuaded the officer to surrender at 5.05pm.

“The fact that there was some contact with another officer – perhaps it was a cry for help by the officer that has prevented this from ending tragically,” a police official told the Herald last night.

The acting Assistant Commissioner, Frank Mennilli, confirmed the phone call had probably saved the situation, but could shed no light on why the officer, a married man who had been in the force for 20 years, might want to take his life.

At least seven NSW police officers have committed suicide since 2001, five of them in a police station. More police have died from suicide while on duty than any other cause.

Last month the Police Commissioner, Ken Moroney, expressed his concern at the rate of suicides and the need for commanders to recognise symptoms and intervene. He said senior officers would be trained to recognise psychological distress. “It may be that by taking an early intervention role we can lead people into the right programs,” he said.

Mr Moroney added that many police had been reluctant to seek help about personal problems while coping with the pressures of their job.

Officers at Sutherland and Menai are still struggling to explain why a new recruit, Constable Greg Norman Lundberg, 29, fatally shot himself while working alone in the station at Menai in January. He left no note and did not appear depressed to his colleagues.

At Chatswood police station in November 2005, Detective Senior Constable Patrick Cleary shot himself dead before colleagues arrived for work.

And in August 2004, Detective Sergeant Steve Leach killed himself with his pistol at police headquarters at Parramatta.

Following yesterday’s stand-off, Mr Mennilli said outside Earlwood police station: “There was a telephone call made to another officer and the police responded to that telephone call.”