WA police are desperately trying to bolster recruiting efforts after more than 60 officers quit in June — nearly twice the normal monthly rate.
The departures continue at an alarming rate with more layoffs in the first five months of this year, as they will throughout 2021.
It’s because the police officers who remain on the job are seeking mental health care in increasing numbers due to the stress and trauma of the role.
And The West Australian can reveal that in addition to the 64 officers who resigned in June, a further five police assistant officers and three recruits resigned.
The monthly average discharge rate for sworn officers is 33. In the past six months, it has risen to about 44.
There are now fears among ordinary officers that the number of layoffs will exceed the number of recruits, as officers look elsewhere with higher pay and less stress, including in the resource industry.
“At this rate, we will be in a world of pain,” an officer said Friday.
In a statement to The West, WA Police said it was confident in attracting more recruits from WA through the current Let’s Join Forces recruitment campaign, but other strategies, including an overseas recruitment campaign, were among the options it was now considering.
“The Western Australia Police Department has already recognized that there are recruitment challenges in today’s competitive job market,” the statement said.
“Given the current circumstances, the WA Police Force is exploring a range of options to attract future recruits.
“This includes potential interstate and foreign recruiting campaigns, but decisions have yet to be made regarding a proposed extension of the current recruiting campaign.”
There are plenty of officers abroad who are very well qualified and we are now in a situation where we have no choice but to look elsewhere for additional officers.
It can be revealed that the WA Police Union wrote to Police Commissioner Chris Dawson several months ago urging him to consider a recruiting campaign that will attract experienced officers from other jurisdictions, especially from abroad.
Union boss Mick Kelly said he also spoke with police secretary Paul Papalia last week about an overseas recruiting strategy.
“Our attrition is pretty dire right now,” Kelly said.
“There are plenty of officers abroad who are very well qualified and we are now in a situation where we have no choice but to look elsewhere for additional officers.”
The urgent need to fill roles comes as WA police officers seeking mental health care have more than tripled in the past two years.
In a budget estimate hearing held on June 22, the WA Police Department confirmed that 777 police officers had access to mental health programs in 2019, which more than doubled to 1,659 in 2020 and further increased to 2,619 last year.
According to estimates, there were 236 layoffs from the force between January and May this year, almost as many as in all of 2021 (243).
There were 149 layoffs in 2020 and only 108 in 2019.
Mr Dawson, who will leave the top job in a few weeks, told the hearing that the layoff rate for this year was “proportionally above … the average” but blamed the strong labor market and employment, in some cases with higher wages elsewhere.
A state government spokesman told The West that the McGowan government and the WA Police Department were in the midst of a “record recruiting campaign.”
They said 570 people had already joined the force under the government’s commitment to recruit 950 new officers.
“Currently, the campaign is focused on recruiting Western Australians,” the spokesperson added.
Prime Minister Mark McGowan recently returned from Europe as part of an effort to recruit more skilled workers for WA.
He flew on the first non-stop flight from Perth to Rome, before heading to London, Dublin and Doha.