NSW Police officers made 500 formal complaints about bullying and harassment from their colleagues in 2019 and 2020.
The police security management unit – which provides services to government operations such as Parliament House – was the source of most complaints, followed by radio operations and the Blue Mountains command.
The security management unit had 28 harassment allegations made against it last year, NSW Police revealed in responses to questions on notice at NSW Parliament.
The Blue Mountains command recorded 14 bullying complaints, and the Campsie command had 12 in 2020.
Police lodge hundreds of complaints against their colleagues every year because they must report any misconduct.
The Sun-Herald has spoken to more than 100 serving and former police, who revealed how complaints could be “weaponised” and used as a tool for bullying and discrimination to force good officers out of the job.
A rise in NSW Police officer turnover resulted in 728 officers leaving the force last year, more than half of them medically discharged. The NSW Police Association says almost all medically discharged police have psychological injuries, primarily caused by “internal/organisational factors”.
Officers in the Blue Mountains, Wagga Wagga and other Sydney commands said bullying and harassment highlighted by The Sun-Herald last year has continued this year.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told a parliamentary estimates hearing that the Wagga Wagga station was on his “radar” as an increase in bullying and sexual harassment incidents had been recorded there this financial year.
Ten officers from Wagga Wagga “nominated bullying and harassment as a contributing factor to their primary medical condition” between 2018 and 2020, NSW Police told Parliament on Thursday.
“Analysis indicates that [seven] officers have experienced traumatic incidents over a number of years and issues of bullying and harassment appear to be secondary to the primary medical condition of PTSD.”
Three officers said the harassment they faced was so intense, they claimed it as “wholly a contributing factor” to their medical issues, NSW Police said.
A targeted performance review of the Riverina police district, including the Wagga Wagga station, was done in September and another one had been scheduled for May 2021.
Greens MLC David Shoebridge, who chaired the hearing, said one of the most remarkable things was that bullying and harassment complaints data split up by local area command did not exist publicly until parliamentarians began asking questions.
“It’s very hard to fix a problem if you don’t know what or where that problem exists,” Mr Shoebridge said.
NSW Police say new programs and processes are being used to address cultural issues and respond to a series of Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) reports about misconduct and dysfunction at police commands.
The force is trialling an “Enhanced Resolution and Procedural Fairness” program, implementing a “respectful workplace behaviour management model”, plus establishing a “safe reporting and advisory” unit.
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Nigel Gladstone is an investigative journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.
Published at Fri, 09 Apr 2021 19:30:00 +0000