Hatikvah Blue Hope Foundation is gravely concerned following the suicide of another serving police officer in the past month, and we extend our deepest sympathy to the grieving family.
This tragedy comes as NZ Police is seeing a staggering 48.5% decline in recruitment applications over the past four years (as reported by AM).
These crises demonstrate the need for urgency in reevaluating how we support our police personnel.
Data obtained under the Official Information highlights a shrinking interest in law enforcement careers, with new applications falling from 7973 in 2019 to 4108 last year.
Government plans to recruit 1800 new officers by this year have been stymied, while the Police Association points to increased dangers for frontline officers as a deterrent to recruitment.
But that is not the only driver of decreasing recruitment.
The Foundation has repeatedly highlighted the extensive but unacknowledged issue of PTSD affecting serving and retired officers.
This hidden crisis can have disastrous consequences, including suicide. Sadly, the Coroners Act hinders the effectiveness of formal probes in these tragedies, obstructing health and safety-centric police bosses from identifying root causes.
The recruitment struggle prompts a critical question: Isn't it both economically sound and morally imperative to invest in the well-being of our existing officers?
By aligning with international safety protocols such as ISO 45003, a set of international guidelines designed to help organisations improve their employees' mental well-being and psychological safety and adopting effective case management, we can notably improve the quality of life for our officers.
Police Association president Chris Cahill acknowledges the global nature of the recruitment crisis, and the Foundation argues New Zealand can set a precedent by implementing high-quality occupational health measures tailored for the police service.
The Foundation advocates a move away from a singular focus on recruitment towards an encompassing plan centred on current police officer welfare. By tirelessly promoting best practices in occupational health, raising awareness of PTSD, and striving for suicide prevention, we aim to improve police worker rights and fortify the service.
Swift action from the government and associated entities is now more crucial than ever.