Politics

The Police Union Has Responded To The Viral Video Of Police Stomping On A Man’s Head

"(Police) should be the last people that we call to support the community in these situations."

police mental health

After a week which saw videos of two violent police arrests in Victoria go viral, a spokesperson from their police union has spoken out to say police should not be the first responders for incidents involving mental health.

It’s an argument that people who believe in defunding the police have been making for years —  that these kinds of cases should be attended to by people who are specially trained.

But this morning Wayne Gatt, secretary of the Police Association Victoria, told The Today Show dealing with mental health issues was a “mainstay” of their work.

“We have a problem, and Victoria Police sadly are the first line of responders that we call, they should be the last people that we call to support the community in these situations and we have to make sure police have everything we need,” he said.

“Almost around the clock our members are responding to the mental health crisis, it shows us that the system is broken,” he said.

He said they often have police cars lined up for hours at emergency departments taking mental health patients for assessment. Despite this, the pandemic forced them to cancel planned mental health training earlier this year.

“It’s something that we know has to continue, with our members going to one of these instances almost every ten minutes,” he said.

Police Slammed After Two Incidents Of Violence In Victoria

Victoria Police are under a microscope at the moment, firstly for a video taken on Sunday which showed police in Melbourne’s north stomping on the head of a man who was having a bipolar incident. They had been called by hospital staff who feared for the man’s safety — he’s now in a coma.

The officer who stomped on him has been suspended with pay. Another officer who rammed the man with his car has had his authority to drive a police vehicle withdrawn.

Days later police in Melbourne’s east shot another man who also has suspected mental health issues, because he refused to drop a knife he was holding. Witnesses say the man was pacing around, but did not threaten anyone.

Again, the officer involved was suspended with pay. The union is now calling for all frontline offices to be issues with tasers to avoid a similar incident.

“We know that mental health crisis  doesn’t just impact people in the community it affects police, and through COVID-19 our members particularly have been on the frontline, they’re under more pressure than they’ve ever had before, and all of this doesn’t stop, it adds to that bucket of trauma that they have to carry through their career,” Gatt told Today host Karl Stefanovic.

But Karl Stefanovic cut in to point out there was no justification for the actions of police on Sunday.

Gatt said other police officers expected that person would be held accountable for any use of force in the community.

“But underlying even that incident is a mental health crisis. Somebody who had to wait 19 hours to get support and then fought their way out of hospital in sheer frustration. That shouldn’t happen.”