Square Holes research reveals heavy Covid toll on front-line police

Research commissioned by the Police Association of South Australia has revealed a significant burden on cops’ wellbeing owing to the state’s COVID-19 response.

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Mounted police on Hindley Street wearing face masks. Image supplied by the Police Association.
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Association president Mark Carroll said the research was designed to quantify the combined effects of understaffing and additional Covid duties on the mental and physical health of members.

“We wanted to evaluate, precisely, what we already knew was occurring in the workplace,” he said.

“We knew members were under enormous pressure and we wanted to test the anecdotal evidence.

“The research certainly uncovered many issues affecting our members — and we were able to use that evidence to prosecute our case to SAPOL and the state government.”

South Australian police officers in the CBD. Photo supplied by the Police Association.

The study of 1037 members showed 71% had their daily tasks impacted by Covid-related duties.

Many also revealed experiences of fatigue and mental distress owing to the extra duties.

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The personal lives of 65% of survey participants were negatively affected, while 58% reported their relationships with friends and family suffered as a result of cancelled leave, last-minute shift changes and excessive overtime demands.

“The research certainly uncovered many issues affecting our members — and we were able to use that evidence to prosecute our case to SAPOL and the state government.”

Mr Carroll said the state government had used police officers as “proxy SA Health workers.”

“At one point we had something like 600-odd people working on borders, checking QR codes and doing other COVID-related duties,” he said.

“There were simply not enough police officers on the front line. The government and SAPOL had to act. “

The Advertiser also reported the survey research in a full-page article on March 28, 2022. Mr Carroll said it was critical for the public to be informed about the issues confronting their police force.

“The police belong to the community of SA,” he said.

“They fund it, they rely on it. When there’s resourcing issues, they should know about it.”

SA Police in the CBD. Photo supplied by the Police Association.

Mr Carroll also says the research is compelling enough to warrant action in the upcoming state budget.

“We’re waiting for that to be handed down in a couple of weeks,” he said.

“We expect there’ll be permanent funding for about 170 police security officers.

“They can come in and perform some ancillary roles, to get police back to the front line.”

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens told The Advertiser the pandemic put a strain on the force, and expressed a desire to get back to core policing “as we know it.”

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