Rise in police seeking support

THE police force responsible for the massive investigation into the Suffolk red light killings has referred 86 of its frontline officers for counselling during a 12-month period, it can be revealed.

SUFFOLK police has referred 86 of its frontline officers for counselling during a 12-month period, it can be revealed today.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show the constabulary referred the officers for psychological help between July 2006 and July 2007 - a period which included the red light killings investigation.

The reasons why officers sought counselling remains confidential - but welfare chiefs admit the number needing help was higher than normal.

The force has had to cope with a series of major inquiries during the past 12 months - including Operation Sumac, the unprecedented investigation into the deaths of five prostitutes, whose bodies were discovered outside Ipswich over a 10-day period in December.

In the same month, police had to launch an investigation into the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Jimoh Plunkett at Zest nightclub in Ipswich.

The force is unable to say how many of the officers who sought counselling did so in relation to their work on Operation Sumac or the Zest shooting.

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But Derek Barrell, Suffolk Constabulary's welfare advisor, said the psychological support required by police officers after these major crimes was probably “slightly” higher than normal.

“I am sure any major investigation that we had would have had an effect on officers,” he said.

“I feel confident that probably the support they would have required would have been slightly up, yes.

“Support is often linked to exposure to traumatic events such as fatal road traffic accidents, dealing with sensitive policing areas such as child protection or online investigations and murder investigations.

“One would expect any major murder investigation to involve that support.”

Mr Barrell said the officers involved with Operation Sumac had shown “remarkable resilience”.

“They seemed to have an extra adrenalin level which carried them through,” he said.

“Perhaps the actual situation gave them good strength and determination.

“I was not conscious Operation Sumac needed that much more support than most police investigations. To some extent, the professionalism of the officers really came through.”

But the welfare officer admitted that often officers did not seek help until two years after a traumatic event.

The Constabulary provides onsite counselling via its occupational health department.

But police officers who require specialist support are referred to one of three independent counsellors based in Bury St Edmunds, Lowestoft and Ipswich.

Are you surprised at the figures? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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