Police must treat mental health as “core business” in training officers to deal with mentally ill people in stressful and dangerous situations, the Queensland coroner has recommended.
It follows an inquest into five fatal police shootings where the deceased all had a history of known or suspected mental illness.
The deaths of Anthony Young, Shaun Kumeroa, Laval Zimmer, Edward Logan and Troy Foster were probed after they were fatally shot in unrelated incidents between August 2013 and November 2014.
State coroner Terry Ryan previously cleared officers of any wrongdoing, but delivered 19 recommendations today including targeted training for officers to help them deal with people with mental health issues.
“Each of the men had a history of known or suspected mental illness, highlighting the need for the Queensland Police Service to treat mental health as ‘core business’,” Mr Ryan said.
He recommended the Queensland Police Service employ around-the-clock mental health clinicians to help deal with people suffering mental issues.
The Queensland Government was urged to review its Mental Health Intervention Project and continue funding for body-worn cameras, so all officers have one.
Mr Ryan also recommended the establishment of full-time dedicated mental health intervention coordinators in each police district.
In addition, he said the operating hours for mental health clinicians within the Brisbane Police Communications Centre should be expanded to 24 hours, seven days a week.
Other recommendations included mandatory counselling for officers involved in critical incidents, a government-regulated scheme for replica firearms and the consideration of additional firearms training for police.
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers suggested about 200 extra police officers were needed to help deal with mental health issues.
He said it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to implement all 19 recommendations made by the coroner.
“What he did recognise was that mental health is a core business of police,” Mr Leavers said.
“I would have thought that is the health department but clearly police are actually picking up the slack of every other government department.
“Once it used to be fighting crime, now it is mental health.”
Laval Zimmer, 33, was shot dead when he advanced towards officers while armed with a knife at his house in Kippa-Ring north of Brisbane, in 2014.
Ken Mackenzie spoke on behalf of Mr Zimmer’s mother who attended court but did not wish to comment in person.
“Mrs Zimmer is very pleased that the coroner has acknowledged that mental health skills are the core business of the police service,” Mr Mackenzie said.
“The onus is very much now on the Government to provide the resources to implement the recommendations of the coroner.”