How many deaths will it take? Crisis intervention needs urgent reform.

Media release: Tuesday September 19, 2023.

Today another family is in mourning after NSW Police yet again responded to a traumatised person by resorting to lethal force. The victim was Krista Kach, a distressed 47-year-old woman. It has happened before. Krista Kach’s name is just the latest in a shameful and tragic litany that includes (p.10) Adam Salter, Elijah Holcombe, Roni Levi, Tyler Cassidy, Daniel Rolph, Amanda Jones, Jason Chapman, Jack Kokaua, Jesse and, most recently, Clare Nowland. Unless changes are made to how the state responds to mental health crises it will happen again. And again.

In arresting Ms Kach, Police shot her with a taser and with bean bag rounds. Neither of those is necessarily lethal, but it is well known that either of them can be.  What immediate threat justified their use here? The Police say Ms Kach threatened them with an axe. But that was some 9 hours earlier, when they first arrived. Meanwhile, despite pleas from her children, Police failed to obtain any medical help at the scene for Ms Kach, and they refused to let her daughter speak to her.

Krista Kach’s death underscores the failure of how crisis intervention is managed, and the need for reform, as Justice Action has recently submitted to a NSW Parliamentary inquiry. The government and police officers continuously fail to address the issue and provide adequate support to those individuals. Officers often demonstrate a lack of understanding and make judgments based on one’s mental health highlighted by their inappropriate behaviour and ill-treatment towards mentally ill individuals.  Far from improving Police capacity to deal with mental health issues, Police training in that area has been axed.

After evaluating the current intervention programs, Justice Action discovered there are critical issues with the accessibility and allocation of resources and funding of the intervention. Practices like The Mental Health Acute Assessment Team (MHAAT) and Crisis assessment and treatment teams (CATTs) all face a similar struggle in which they are unable to cope with the high levels of demand, hence offering inadequate advice or referring consumers to police services. 

We strongly urge the government to adopt the suggestions stated in our proposal to minimise the recurrence of those heartbreaking accidents and establish a safer, more effective and humane response— which must begin with response teams that are not armed with various types of gun. How many more families will be mourning before the system is fixed?

We also support the calls by Sue Higginson MLA and Ms Kach’s family for a full Inquiry into Ms Kach’s death.

These killings must stop. The Police must take further accountability and implement measures that actually work. Click here for a list of victims involved in police crisis intervention mishaps and Justice Action’s paper on crisis intervention alternatives.