After criticism over its in-service health issues and a "siloed" approach to record-keeping, Australia's federal police will spend more than $4 million on a new electronic database dubbed "One Health".
The Australian Federal Police, which includes nearly 900 sworn and unsworn officers working under a contract to supply policing services to the ACT, doesn't have a consolidated information technology solution for managing its health-related information and records, case management, workers' compensation or return-to-work arrangements.
The police union, which represents more than two-thirds of the workforce, has not been briefed on the proposed system but says it would "assist ... in managing people with complex needs".
"Over the years, there have been many unnecessary hardships faced by employees due to numerous poor health and welfare models and a lack of services, especially in the mental health environment," federal police association president Angela Smith said.
Five federal officers have committed suicide in the past three years, all using their service weapons.Two occurred within a six-week period in 2018. The most recent was that of an Air Security Officer in July last year, in a Canberra motel room.
In March 2018, a report by the National Audit Office found the organisation "lacks a comprehensive and consolidated organisational health and wellbeing framework to enable effective management and support of employee mental health".
It also found "weaknesses with the AFP's rehabilitation and return to work arrangements for employees suffering from a psychological injury sustained during their employment with the AFP".
"These relate to the lack of mental-health specific rehabilitation policies, procedures and training".
As recently as November last year, Canberra solicitor and former ACT police officer David Healey said there would be a lot of people "on the books" who were not operational because they had been struck down by mental health injuries.
He blamed much of the problem on that lack of personnel rotation within different parts of the organisation which would allow members to physically and mentally "reset".
The police union hoped a central repository providing a complete picture of an officer's full physical and mental well-being would hopefully "red-flag" potential issues before they manifested into serious problems.
"Physical injuries are relatively easier to manage for the workplace, if you have a broken leg, then it's obvious to everyone that you're injured," Ms Smith said.
"The same can't be said for people with mental health injuries, and quite often their [the officer's] return to work is quite complex.
Having to review multiple databases or paper files is ridiculous in the current technological environment."
A 2018 Senate inquiry into the health of first responders recommended better data collection processes and compulsory mental health training for managers.
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