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Police health risks identified

Media Release

13 April 2001

Media release from Senator, the Hon Chris Ellison, Minister for Justice and Customs

Identifying and reducing the risk of death or injury to Australian police is the focus of two new research papers released today by the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison.

Senator Ellison said the papers, Occupational Health and Safety Risks Faced by Police Officers (196) and Protecting the Occupational Health and Safety of Police Officers (197) developed by the Australian Institute of Criminology, provided valuable information on the risks inherent in Australian policing as well as comparative international experiences.

"Police officers have a high-risk job compared to many others. Identifying the everyday risks they face in their jobs and ensuring that appropriate safety strategies are in place is essential in maintaining effective policing in the community," Senator Ellison said.

"Tragically, on average one police officer per year is murdered in Australia, while many others are assaulted, injured in car accidents, contract communicable diseases or suffer severe stress."

"These papers outline a range of preventative strategies that can help reduce these risks including the use of protective body armour and capsicum spray, developing defensive combat skills and comprehensive training for operational activities such as drug raids."

"The information they contain will provide valuable safety data for policing agencies around Australia."

Key findings included:

  • 187 police officer homicides have been recorded in Australia since 1830, most through shootings (114),
  • 10% of assault victims per year are police officers and assaults occur more frequently on weekends and evenings,
  • assailants are usually male, alcohol or drug affected, aged between 15 and 29, have prior convictions and are unmarried,
  • alcohol use among police is about double that of the general population, and
  • since body armour was introduced in the United States in 1973, 2,325 lives have been saved.

The papers identify the need for access to good data to identify high-risk situations, regular risk assessment audits, effective technical interventions, up-to-date information, routine use of personal protective equipment, regular self-defence and restraint re-training and independent monitoring of the effectiveness of prevention strategies.