PANSW President Kevin Morton
President’s message: Police News Magazine October 2023
As police officers, we aren’t usually afforded the luxury of reflection – taking the time to consider the work that we do, the impact that we make and the colleagues we have met along the way that make the job so rewarding. On our calendar, September is an important time to go inward and ruminate, in happiness and sadness, about those officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty and who are no longer with us.
There are many events this month that honour this tradition in our extended policing family, from the NSW Police Legacy Remembrance Ride to the Wall to Wall Ride. As your President, I would encourage everyone to take a moment out of their busy schedule, whether you’re on shift or off duty, to remember those who no longer stand beside us but who inspire us to continue to pull on the blue shirt each and every day. We will remember them.
Calling out unfair treatment
With a number of critical incidents resulting in unwarranted criticism from different sides of politics, I was compelled to speak out in the media about the growing number of emergency mental health calls outs that police officers are attending.
We know that our members will always carry the weight of responsibility and respond where there is violence or a risk to life and to protect members of the public. Though it is so often the case when Triple O calls come through, the sole responsibility should not fall on NSW police officers to be the first on the scene at emergency call outs where mental health care is required.
During these single-sided debates focused on adequate training and the failings of our 24/7 first responders to address these issues, why aren’t the trained mental health professionals also mentioned in the same discussion in terms of accountability? The NSW Government needs to address this systematic failure with additional resources and funding for other departments, allowing you to focus on your core duties.
As you will see discussed further in this edition, the London Metropolitan Police have recently won their own fight in responding to mental health emergency calls and have implemented a scheme where they are no longer diverted from fighting crime and leaving this work to trained medical professionals and staff. I’d argue that a similar model should be implemented in our State. Noting the NSW Premier’s comments following my appearances in the media, I will be interested to watch further developments in this arena.
I have also called out the unfair treatment that our police officers have been receiving during Critical Incident inquests, particularly in instances where mental health call outs are involved. Our police officers are already under immense stress during the process of a Coronial Inquest – with their every move during an already high-pressure situation being scruitinised. I wrote a letter to the former Attorney-General Mark Speakman outlining concerns I had following the 2022 inquest into the death of a 22-yearold Indigenous man Gordon Copeland. While it is important for the Coroner to have robust oversight of police operations, the officers were left traumatised while attempting to detail their version of the events that occurred. Imagine attempting to provide your recollection of a critical incident while family and friends wore shirts emblazoned with the slogan ‘Killed by police’ in the court room? With their training and conduct already being harshly examined during the process, it has broken some of our members who felt ambushed.
I’ve said before and I will state again that we have the best police force in the country, if not the world. I will take a stand when our members are being treated without respect or fairness.
Much has been said about the extreme challenges facing our workforce in relation to recruitment and retention. With detectives in some Commands being pulled off investigations and required to hit the streets again in support of our members in General Duties, vacancies are resulting in operations being impacted in unforeseen circumstances. I thank all of you for your tireless work ethic and your willingness to continually step in to support your colleagues when times are tough.
A meeting of the minds
Since our last edition, there have been a number of Forums held around the State, from returning to my old stomping ground in the Northern Region to meeting with Specialist Commands in Parramatta. It has been fantastic to get out to meet current Branch Officials and discuss the issues particular to your workplaces. It is positive to see that our members continue to be actively engaged, passing on important information and actively advocating. I would encourage you to attend if the opportunity arises in your region.