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Policy shift for NSW police and why Queensland police should follow

New South Wales is the first state to recognise police officers who have taken their own lives due to work related psychological injuries such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on the NSW Police Wall of Remembrance following a campaign led by Ms Deborah Bryant, who was widowed when her police officer husband committed suicide.

Ms Deborah Bryant was not alone – three other women who were each widows of officers lost to suicide from 1996 to 2013 joined the campaign for change.

Retiring NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione told ABC News that the policy shift to recognise these officers was considered at a national level by all state commissioners but it was ultimately decided against. Given the decision, Commissioner Scipione decided to use his final months as Commissioner to implement the policy change for his own state.

“Those people matter, they are still part of the blue family, the uniform is connected to them and when it’s the right thing to do, you just do it.” – NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione

When viewing the updated NSW memorial, Ms Bryant said “I think that it sends a really important message to the wider police community that these police officers lives really, really mattered and their service is honoured, that’s what we wanted”. However, she believes the job isn’t over and is continuing to campaign to see the same honour bestowed at the National Police Memorial in Canberra.

In the meantime, the tenacity and conviction of former Commissioner Scipione to make the change at state level as his last act as commissioner should be applauded. Recognising the lives of officers who have lost their lives due to sometimes unseen stresses of the job was an important and necessary policy change to show that we truly value and respect the sacrifice they have made in serving and protecting our community.

Queensland, like most other states of Australia, do not presently recognise police lives lost due to work related suicide on the honour roll. We feel that this should change, as does the son of fallen Queensland police hero, Michael ‘Mick’ Isles, Steven – who has tirelessly campaigned for the better part of the last 10 years. [2021 Update: Mr Isles has brought an action in the Supreme Court after the state Ombudsman found the Queensland Police were discriminating against officers who died by suicide.]

A recent Change.org petition [now closed] was created to establish a national consensus for the Police Memorial Process in each state to include police officers lost to suicide. We encourage everyone to sign this to show support for the worthy cause.

National Police Remembrance Day is held on September 29 each year to coincide with St Michael’s Day. St Michael is the patron saint of police and the archangel charged to protect and defend people.

Image source: Queensland Police Service, used under fair use provisions

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This commentary is published by Roche Legal for general information purposes only and should not be relied on as specific advice. The content relates to Queensland law only and is subject to change over time. You should seek legal advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any decision.