The Australian Federal Police Former Members Association (AFPFMA) has called on the Federal Government to start using the term ‘police veteran’ when referring to former police.
“At the outset, the AFPFMA would like to make clear our agenda in pursuing the use of the term ‘police veteran’ is not an attempt to dislodge, devalue or usurp the standing of Defence veterans; far from it. Rather, our advocacy is about recognising the service elements of the policing profession and using language that describes the ongoing impacts of such service,” said Mike Doroshenko, President of the AFPFMA.
Each shift is more challenging than it once was, if for no other reason than the expectation on police to be more accountable. The police experience starts when they leave their home and families to start their shift; we police the community we live in. A typical day ‘on the job’ can involve incident response, dealing with violent offenders, being assaulted, witnessing severe trauma, deaths, crime scene examinations, searches, arrests, victim and family support, suspect interviews, media management, evidence examination, coronial inquests, court hearings and trials, victims of crime support and pre-sentence interviews with offenders. “The frequency of ‘critical incidents’ is much greater than that found in the ADF and police can’t be removed from the ‘theatre of operation’; it is where we and our families live. We are veterans in the true sense of the word,” said Mike.
The community is now more aware of the link between the ‘normal police’ experiences and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Police must note and recall over time, finite details of what they see, hear, smell and experience, often when other members of the community actively try to forget such experiences. Police are veterans of their experiences, and many former police suffer enduring mental health challenges, with little to no support.
It is our strong belief that ‘veteran’ reflects properly the experiences police have during their service life. For the AFP, these experiences occur domestically and overseas. Some Australian communities have for a while now, quite willingly accepted their senior State officials using the term ‘veteran‘ when referring to former police officers. It is our strong view and that of our membership that this acceptance represents the broad collective acknowledgement and recognition of the contemporary challenges facing former police in Australia.
The AFPFMA long-term goal is prolonging the active healthy life of AFP Veterans. The current average age of death of former AFP Veterans, since 1979 is a staggering 62.25 years of age, well below the national average. A crucial first step in that journey of recovery is having those who are able to influence public opinion, referring to former police as ‘police veterans’. “In this regard, the AFPFMA hope that we can count on the Government to start using ‘police veteran’ when referring to former police.”
UPDATE 16 October 2020: The Prime Minister has written back to the AFPFMA and declined our request for the Government to use the term #policeveteran.