Last updated on September 19th, 2023 at 05:49 pmReading Time: 3 minutes
We don’t know.
My initial reaction to that was that I found it staggering, but then I began to think a little deeper.
Journalist Carl Eve of the Plymouth Herald has written what I believe to be a first class exposé of the chaos surrounding Police Officers who have taken their own lives.
If you want to know how many Police Officers have been arrested for Murder or Assault we can tell you.
If you want to know how many Police Officers have been murdered or assaulted we can tell you.
If you want to know how many Police Officers are off sick at any time we can tell you.
If you want to know how many of those are off sick with Stress/PTSD we can probably tell you.
If you want to know how many Police Officers (or former Police Officers) have taken their own lives, sorry, we can’t tell you that, we don’t record those stats.
I’m not convinced that I believe that, Police Forces do like a good set of stats and certain of them have been known to issue the odd pork pie in response to an FOIA request.
In November 2017 Plymouth Live revealed that of the police officers in Devon and Cornwall who had lost their lives since 2009, a quarter had taken their own lives.
Plymouth Live made Freedom of Information requests of 49 police forces in the country, including British Transport Police, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Ministry of Defence Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary and Police Scotland, asking for details of the number of officers who died in service and the causes of death, such as traffic accidents, natural causes, terrorism or suicide. The process took around eight months to complete as a number of forces delayed their responses far beyond the statutory 20 working days agreed by the law.
Only 37 forces replied and 30 of those forces revealed that while they kept records for how many officers died while in service, none had any details of the causes of death or details regarding
Those that have read my previous post will know that I once had to deal with the suicide of a friend and colleague. His occupation was not hidden from my report or the Coroner’s Inquest. Why would it not be recorded somewhere? It undoubtedly was but not necessarily in a retrievable format.
At least one other former friend and colleague also took his own life. I know why he did that and I’m not going to include it here, but be assured it was 100% related to his job.
Demands on Police Officers has increased dramatically. In tandem, Police numbers have been ruthlessly reduced by successive governments since 2010. Leaves have been cancelled in alarming numbers. I think that 12 hour shifts are currently the norm, often more. Officers are routinely single-crewed, on their own, no backup. Hundreds of thousands of hours Time Off in Lieu have been racked up. Hundreds of thousands of Rest Days are waiting to be re-rostered, officers often not having any inkling when they will be able to take them. Annual Leave has been denied en bloc affecting not only the officers but their families also. I can imagine that wives and partners are not overly impressed by that and may become quite vocal on the subject.
I refer to my previous post, even if the Forces suddenly start collecting the stats, that on its own means nothing. Effective and appropriate support needs to be provided in a timely fashion. A lot of that used to happen in canteens, but they’ve all been closed. Adjourn to the local Golden Arches? Somebody will take a photo and sell the story to a newspaper somewhere, more stress. Go for a pint after work? Even if the pubs are still open when you get off, someone will make something of it.
Have the stats by all means, but the infrastructure has to be there to protect the Force’s most valuable asset, their officers.
Anything less is a National Disgrace. Get it sorted.
At the same time as all this is going on officers are frequently having to contend with Trial by Social Media and Armchair Experts.
Knife Crime and Moped-Enabled Crime have hit record highs over the last 18 months and if Police intervene and ‘knock’ someone off their moped, or stop and search a group of youths for knives etc, there is always someone there who can’t wait to upload a heavily edited few seconds of video footage to the ‘net and cause mischief and strife. All of this adds to the stress that ALL Front Line Officers are already under.