Albury police ‘a happier lot’

Supt Beth Stirton

Supt Beth Stirton

THE number of Albury police on long-term sick leave has dropped dramatically in the past three years due to in-roads in caring for officers’ physical and mental well-being, says area Superintendent Beth Stirton.

At present four officers in the Albury local area command are on long-term absences due to illness — two for physical reasons and two with psychological concerns.

That’s down from 15 officers when Supt Stirton first joined Albury in 2011.

“I’ve focused greatly on looking after our police members,” she said.

“And I envisage these officers who are off will be soon back.”

Those officers on leave include a female policewoman who has been away since January after she was threatened and abused by a drunk truck driver being held in custody.

The man, Lee Anthony Haycroft, 35, appeared in Albury Local Court this week where it was revealed he told the policewoman he would “stomp on your head” and “bash your husband and your kids”.

She reacted physically, showing signs of anxiety and panic, and went on leave the next day.

Supt Stirton said the force had become more proactive in recent years in dealing with psychological trauma and encouraging early intervention.

“Police are normal people operating in an abnormal world,” she said.

“We see a lot of things every day that can be very traumatic ... so we try to address issues early on in the piece.

“There has been a change organisationally but if you don’t live and love that change in your area then you can’t really make a difference.”

President of the Police Association of NSW, Scott Weber, agreed some headway had been made in making officers’ mental health a priority, but there was room for improvement.

Mr Weber said the association was working with NSW Police and the Minister for Police Scott Ayres to address the issues.

“We need to deal with trauma head on to protect those who protect us,” he said.

“There have been improvements but there is still a way to go.”

Supt Stirton said Albury’s crime statistics proved it was a “very functional” area command, with all figures on target in each crime category.

Officers already received resilience training at the police academy, while other improvements included tracking officers’ service history.

This allowed senior staff to be aware of any traumatic incidents in a member’s history no matter where they might have been stationed, Supt Stirton said.