The coronial findings released today into the police killing of young woman Courtney Topic while in severe mental distress have exposed a police force tragically under-prepared for responding to people with mental illness. The coroner made a series of recommendations to improve police responses including extensive changes to training police, from 000 operators to all front line officers.
Today’s findings build on data obtained by the Greens under FOI which showed that since the shooting death of Roni Levi on Bondi Beach in 1997 there have been 38 people shot and killed by police. Over half of these appear to have been facing significant mental health issues at the time of their deaths.
Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“The system failed Courtney, it’s the same system that failed the police who were sent to deal with her without the training or skills to keep her safe.
“This case proves beyond doubt that the one day of basic mental health training given to police is grossly inadequate.
“We need a systemic fix to how police respond to people with mental illness, and that starts with a comprehensive independent review of the dozens of police shootings of mentally ill people over the last 20 years.
“Right now though we need NSW Police to commit to wherever possible ensuring police with the four day mental health training qualifications are first responders to people with mental health issues.
“Tragically in Courtney’s case two police who had the full training turned up moments after she was shot.
“We will be formally requesting the LECC undertake the systemic review of police shootings identified as appropriate by the coroner.
“We cannot allow people in mental distress to continue to pay with their lives.
“It’s shocking that out of a $3.9 billion budget for police, only $650,000 is allocated to the Mental Health Intervention Team.
“Our thoughts today are with Courtney’s family for the loss of this young woman’s future and the pain the family have suffered. We hope these recommendations are immediately adopted.
“A serious investment in mental health resources and a rethinking of police training is necessary if we are to save lives in the future,” Mr Shoebridge said.
The coronial findings are available here: http://www.coroners.justice.nsw.gov.au/Documents/Courtney%20Topic%20findings.pdf
Download the documents released under FOI here: http://opengovernmentnsw.org.au/download/gipa-to-police-deaths-from-police-operations/