Australia’s top law enforcement agency has introduced stricter internal firearm regulations after four officers took their own lives.
Two Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers committed suicide using their service weapons at the force’s Canberra headquarters within six weeks in late 2018.
The deaths came after two similar incidents at the AFP’s building in Melbourne in 2017 and prompted calls for an overhaul of the AFP’s mental health support system.
Under the new regulations, officers will need a reason to check out their weapons rather than being able to draw them out while off duty as was the case under the old system.
Commissioner of the AFP Andrew Colvin said the deaths had a deep impact on the organization.
“One officer taking their life is one officer too many,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Tuesday.
“These are our colleagues. People we know. People who have been in the organization, by and large, for a very long time. So it’s a difficult time for the AFP.”
According to a study from mental health support group Phoenix Australia, one in four police officers experience moderate to high psychological distress.
Colvin said that the AFP had previously been ignorant of the importance of mental health but insisted that had changed.
“That’s changing and that’s a positive for policing, that we are starting to talk about this a lot more,” he said.
“Through tragedy comes opportunities for us to learn; through tragedy comes opportunities for us to get better.”