Better and more extensive training to enable the NSW Police Force (NSWPF) to better deal with incidents involving people with mental health issues will help protect some of the community’s most vulnerable citizens.
President of the Law Society of NSW Cassandra Banks said the report released by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) late yesterday contains common sense recommendations that, if implemented, will improve community safety and could potentially save lives.
“This report can be the foundation for real improvements in the capability of Police to deal with critical incidents, including those involving people struggling with mental health or behavioural issues linked to cognitive impairment,” Ms Banks said.
‘The Law Society appreciates that our police officers are often called upon to put themselves in harm’s way while discharging their duties. As the LECC’s report states, ‘unenviable split-second decisions’ can lead to tragic outcomes.”
The report, Five Years (2017 – 2022) of Independent Monitoring of NSW Police Force Critical Incident Investigations, states ‘a critical incident is an incident involving a police officer or other member of the NSWPF that results in death or serious injury to a person, during a police operation.’
“Improved and strengthened police training, more transparency and greater resourcing and involvement of mental health professionals in NSWPF interactions with affected individuals can only help resolve these incidents with reduced reliance on force or coercion,” Ms Banks said.
“Where safe, de-escalation should be the first strategy police employ to avoid incidents ending in a violent confrontation with potentially tragic outcomes for all concerned.”
The LECC report and its recommendations are consistent with the Law Society’s advocacy during the recent NSW election campaign for more police legal training.
Ms Banks urged the Minister for Police and the Commissioner of Police to commit to implementing LECC’s recommendations as quickly and comprehensively as possible.
“The Law Society welcomes this report and the indication from the LECC that it is working with NSWPF on better training and streamlined processes between the LECC and police leadership. We are heartened that the LECC has recommended that lessons learnt from a critical incident should be applied without waiting for coronial inquests, where findings can be delivered years after the events in question.”
The Law Society remains available to provide advice on the operation of any reforms under consideration.