'Black dog' police deaths spark call for memorial

RETIRED police officer Ian Browne considers himself one of the lucky ones.

He survived 40 years stressful and traumatic situations without being bitten by "the black dog".

But he knows a police career can inflict mental injuries so severe they lead to an officer's death.

Mr Browne spent 37 years policing the Sunshine Coast and three in Brisbane.

He was a Sergeant when he retired in March.

Mr Browne supports a push to have the names of police officers who take their own lives added to state and national memorials and honour rolls.

Retired Sunshine Coast police officer Ian Browne supports a push to have officers who take their own lives included on state and national memorials.
Retired Sunshine Coast police officer Ian Browne supports a push to have officers who take their own lives included on state and national memorials. John McCutcheon

The push made it to State Parliament last week when North Queensland MP Andrew Cripps tabled a Question on Notice to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to draw her attention to the issue.

"It's a blight on the police service they are not added," Mr Browne said.

"With honour they served, in their death they should also be honoured."

Mr Browne was a partner of late Coast officer Detective Senior Constable Russell Sheehan when they worked together at Nambour Police Station in the mid 1980s.

Det Snr Const Sheehan's suicide death in December 2015 devastated Mr Browne and his colleagues.

"He was the sort of bloke you would go to if you had problems," Mr Browne said.

"He always lifted people up and built people up."

The deaths of a young officer from Maroochydore and a former Noosa officer in Brisbane also had heavy impacts.

"Mental health injury, you can't see.

"You don't know why they did it, why they died.

"Physical injuries on the job, you can see what caused the death.

"So mental health (injury) is the silent killer and I would consider it discriminatory to draw a line between the two."

He said former New South Wales Police Force Commissioner Andrew Scipione's move to add suicide officers to the New South Wales Police Wall of Remembrance would define his career.

"The New South Wales Police Force will remember him for that and say thank you."

Mr Cripps also referred to Mr Scipione's advocacy when raising the matter in Parliament.

"My question asks if the Premier will commit to removing any rules that discriminate between the consequences of mental health injuries, rather than physical injuries, which would preclude the name of a police officer being included on the Queensland Police Service Honour Roll," Mr Cripps said.

He also asked if Ms Palaszczuk would support the removal of any rules that would prevent the same outcome being achieved for the National Police Memorial.

"In 2017, when our society understands a great deal more about mental health and its impact on our community, I can't think of any sensible argument that would justify any inconsistency in relation to the application of these rules."

Mr Cripps said Townsville resident Steven Isles, a constituent in his Hinchinbrook electorate, brought the issue to his attention.

Mr Isles has also been in contact with Police Federation of Australia Chief Executive Officer Mark Burgess.

The federation manages the National Police Memorial in Canberra.

Mr Burgess said suicide officers were deemed ineligible for the National Police Memorial after lengthy debate during the formation of inclusion criteria in 2006.

Police unions, commissioners and legacy organisations from all states were consulted before a consensus was reached.

Mr Burgess was reluctant to relay the arguments against including the officers but said there were "many, many members" opposed.

"I'm not sure how many people would want to say publicly," Mr Burgess said.

He said those arguments had influenced the federation's stance not to include the officers.

"It is a very, very difficult and complex issue."

He said there needed to be some recognition but discussion with members would have to occur to determine what that recognition would be.

"I've got no doubt there will be further discussion.

"At this stage, nothing formal has happened to change it."

A spokesman for Ms Palaszczuk said Queensland police officers did a fantastic job in what could be highly stressful and dangerous situations.

"The Police Commissioner has advised that he is working with a peak national body in relation to looking at the inclusion of officers on state and national honour rolls," the spokesman said.

"I understand the peak body is in the process of consulting with a number of stakeholders in relation to the police honour roll.

"Mental health of all our frontline officers is an extremely important matter to my government as well as the Queensland Police.

"That is why a consultation process to understand the needs of all effected families is taken into consideration to ensure the agreed approach is developed."

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