26th March 2021

Firstly, a conundrum.

What do Lollypop ladies, roadworkers, building site workers, jockeys, farmers, school children and anybody else who spends time outdoors have in common with Police? Nothing really; they all wear a hat, where Police, apart from rare occasions, do not.

In many of the above circumstances, hat-wearing is not optional but compulsory – because apart from all other practical reasons, they protect the head from UV damage leading to skin cancer. It is clear that either VicPol or its members have chosen to ignore the ‘Health Advice’ that most everybody else adheres to. Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide the Cancer Council motto.

The police cap provides only limited protection; however, I was pleased that wearing a hat during my career resulted in skin cancers on the ear, not all over my head. I fear for the future of many police members not taking precautions, but when you are young, you feel bulletproof; but there is no excuse for mature members and Police leaders.

A new hat designed to offer more protection than the traditional cap and a design fit for the policing purpose needs to be considered. The Police baseball cap style has applications, but the protection is more limited than the traditional cap. It also fails miserably as a proud symbol of office.

Having designed a new hat, as in many other workplaces, wearing the hat outside should be compulsory.

I am astounded that this issue has not been pursued with vigour by the Police Association, protecting their members’ wellbeing. Equally, the Workcover insurers should be yelling loudly to reduce their risk profile.

And if protection from the elements is not a compelling enough argument, it may not come as a surprise, but it is extremely difficult to identify Police at any reasonable distance at many incidents as they blend seamlessly into the mix of high-viz, only to be separated when close enough to see who is not wearing a hat – the chances are that will be the Police.

Hat wearing, or lack thereof, has been a Police cultural change that has diminished their professionalism and respect. However, you would think the safety aspect would motivate members to embrace the issue, but obviously not; they will have to be treated like many other workers, where hat-wearing is mandated as an OH&S directive.