Courtney Topic's Death Prompts Calls For Better Police Mental Health Training

The 22-year-old's death would have been avoidable if Police were better trained.

The death of 22-year-old Courtney Topic has promoted calls for better training for police when dealing with someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

Magistrate Elizabeth Ryan told a court on Monday that while no one is directly to blame for Topic's death, it would have been avoidable with better police training.

Topic was standing on West Hoxton street in Sydney's west in February 2015. It was a hot summer day. In one hand she held a drink and in the other she had a knife with a 20 centimetre blade.

Staff at a nearby Hungry Jack's called police saying they could see her walking around the car park with a knife.

At an inquest held in March into Topic's death, witnesses said five officers attended the scene and confronted her. Topic is said to have launched herself towards police with the knife and eventually a fatal shot was fired. She died at the scene.

It is believed Topic was suffering from a mental health crisis induced by undiagnosed schizophrenia when police found her with the knife.

The magistrate also said on Monday that the police officer who fired the shot that killed Topic had reason to believe his life was in danger. Topic was just two metres from him when he fired.

At court on Monday, Courtney's family said the inquest was never about them against the police, but about the two working together to help save other young people's lives.

Recommendations For Better Training For Police

The court heard about the people police fired at  between 1989 and 2011, nearly 42 percent were suffering from mental illness.

"There is no reason to believe these numbers will reduce over time. More families will be left grieving, and police officers profoundly affected," the magistrate's findings reads. 

Among the 10 recommendations given to the NSW Commissioner of Police was the need for greater integration of mental health informed training that focused on de-escalation techniques to manage a crisis situation.

The magistrate also recommended that there be compulsory training for all police officers. As it stands, NSW Police officers are only required to undertake one day of mental health response training. There is a second four day course available, however, it's not mandatory.

It's been recommended that all officers complete four days of training.

NSW Police have not confirmed which of the recommendations they will be implementing.

“The NSW Police Force acknowledges today’s inquest findings and will consider the recommendations in detail before commenting further," NSW Police told ten daily in a statement.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.