28th March 2021
Not surprisingly, there has been some disquiet concerning the assertions we have and will continue to make in this series.
Therefore, it is appropriate that we reiterate that we do not challenge the affliction suffered by many called PTSD, nor do we challenge the orthodoxy of the clinical approaches. However, we do present a view based not on theoretical knowledge but on lived experiences and management expertise of former Police within the CAA, which could reduce the severity and frequency of this Disorder.
Understanding the Occupational Stress (OS) aspect of PTSD exposes the multitude of issues that spawn it. It can result from superiors who lack empathy and understanding of the consequences of their actions; it can equally be driven by workplace dysfunction; the member just cannot fit in. It may be as simple as normal group dynamics and nothing more sinister than that but escape for the victim is fraught with difficulty.
Workplace dysfunction would be the easiest to deal with by the member themselves, transfer to another workplace. Still, under current appointment arrangements, they find it near impossible to move workplaces without exposing the reasons their current position has become untenable.
The members are then faced with the choice of tolerating an intolerable situation or committing private and confidential material to ‘on the record’ and running the risk of it being exposed.
Inevitably many will just ‘suck it up’ and put up with their lot. In many cases, this is actually the genesis of OSD and will ultimately lead to a manifestation of PTSD that could well be career-ending. All because a member could not change workplaces, move sideways.
If a police member chooses not to make an issue public, irrespective of other factors, the member’s privacy must be respected. However, if they choose to transfer to solve their problems, they should be entitled to do so without an exposé, provided a vacancy exists at their place of choice, and this can be very much in the best interest of the member and the organisation.
The current practices of managing member movement within the organisation must be reviewed.
There will be the predictable critics with moving sideways, ‘why should I? I have done nothing wrong’. Maybe that is true, or maybe it is not, but whoever is right or wrong is not the issue; the issue is the members’ long-term welfare.
If another member or a manager behaves badly, here is some sage advice if you are faced with that situation;
‘It is better to let somebody else bruise their knuckles and avoid the drama, but enjoy the inevitable karma because if they are bad, this will be for them; an inexorable outcome.”
While the rights of the members must be protected, so must the role of the Chief Commissioner, who must retain the right to allocate resources as is required for the operation efficiency of the Police Force.
Apart from recent history, Chief Commissioners for decades exercised this power appropriately without causing undue hardship on members; that can be done again.
22nd March 2021
The CAA has thought hard and long before venturing into this part of the conundrum that might explain and perhaps help reduce the impact of the devastating psychological disorders befalling Police members.
Our concern is that the label Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is being used as a catch-all label to cover a number of contributors to the debilitation and suffering of members, and although there would be a degree of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) in every case, as Trauma is part and parcel of policing it may not logically follow that PTS is the major issue causing the disorder.
We know that clinicians argue that Trauma has a cumulative impact on people. It may not be one event but a number over an extended period that spawns PTSD, and we do not contest that hypothesis.
However, what if there were other contributing factors in many cases that were both avoidable and not directly related to the impact of Trauma but rather acted as a magnifier. Trauma has however, a ring to it that tends to evoke sympathy.
One of the problems that the label PTSD creates is that it focuses on the Trauma aspect. The Trauma doesn’t naturally need to be related to their operational policing role but is assumed by most it means that. So the victim’s emphasis is the Trauma they were exposed to rather than other factors may have had a greater impact. Those factors may or may not be work-related.
There is a natural tendency to blame something, the cause of an undesirable outcome, but it will not help the sufferer in the long term if the wrong cause is blamed. Having their focus on the Trauma in their policing life can be counterproductive. That would make a recovery problematic. No Good blaming operational Trauma events if the issue is Organisational Stress (OS) or a problem in their private lives, clinicians would have no hope of successfully treating sufferers.
To really understand the impact of stress, we must accept that all Police experience Post Traumatic Stress (PTS); operational Trauma is the police members lot and is unavoidable. The D in PTSD is the kicker because for Police not to suffer PTS; they would have to be unfeeling dolts akin to a robot. It is whether PTS becomes a Disorder, and we would argue that the Disorder aspect may well be caused by factors other than Trauma.
Until we identify and accept the possibilities of wider options, we have no hope of developing proactive strategies to reduce or prevent Police from having their lives ruined by this phenomenon.
Organisational Stress Disorder (OSD) is where organisational and management ineptitude or other workplace dysfunction causes substantial, and in some cases, debilitating stress on individuals.
Given there appears to be no abatement in the numbers of sufferers of PTSD, this issue needs a fresh look.
OSD will feature in the next article.
23rd of August 2019
The news of four deaths in a week is by any stretch a pandemic of epic proportions, and it is very unlikely that this will be the end of it, it could get much worse.
Today there have been apprehensions expressed echoing what concerns the CAA, that Judicial Personnel Management (JPM) is at the core of many of these unfortunate outcomes, and has left many other Police in a very unhealthy and perilous mental state.
JPM is describing a procedure whereby Judicial processes are used to remove any member who for whatever reason is perceived to be a problem. It is too common that very weak poorly investigated disciplinary or criminal Briefs are, ’given a run’, through internal disciplinary processes or courts where a conviction is not the major objective, but the removal of the member is.
Like every other member or veteran, we are very dismayed at the terrible blight that is descending on Policing. There is no doubt this has been some years in the making hence our concern it will get worse.
The CAA, although having some trained Peer Support Officers in the group, has at least a number of very senior retired police who have substantial experience. The independence from VicPol and the very nature of the former members in the group may be able to help members.
The CAA appeals to any current or former members who are struggling with mental health issues to contact us.
We were never established as a welfare unit, nor do we intend to be one, but as we would expect of every other member to reach out to a distressed colleague, so should we.
“We would rather sit with you for as long as it takes to listen to what you’re going through than fifteen minutes listening to your eulogy.”
If you need to contact us via Facebook, LinkedIn or via caainc.org.au we are here.
These are both real
I speak from experience
It is a big deal.
In a dark place
No way I can see
This is not how
Things should now be
Fearing to leave
My one only space
Tears in my eyes
No smile on my face.
Not ready to talk
The world is outside
For depression has taken
A terrible ride.
This room of depression
My mind going mad
Voices now tell me
That I am so bad
This room that
I’m trapped in
My mind going weird
This is now serious
It’s what I had feared
Anxious to leave
This one only room
I know I need help
I need it real soon.
It’s been a long battle
But I am still here
With love and support
I’ve nothing to fear.
This message important
This illness is real
Seek help and support
This is a big deal.
by Helen Toohey.
31st May 2019
Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton in his article, ‘Victoria Police demand respect,’ invited readers of the Herald Sun 31/5/19 to;
Ask any old school copper if they’ve seen the levels of respect for police change over the years, and their answer will not surprise you.
The Community Advocacy Alliance Inc. (CAA) has several ‘Old School Coppers’ (600 years’ worth) and therefore is well qualified to provide the community with the answer to this question, and the answer may surprise you.
Respect is a two-way disposition, not only has respect deteriorated towards Police, but the Police respect for the community has deteriorated in equal measure.
Although there are many aspects to the Police delivering their part of the bargain, the major influencers to this deterioration are, Disengagement, lack of Service delivery and after service for (victims) the community Police have served.
Every successful modern organisation, whether Political, Not for profit or commercial, all focus on these two important pillars.
The CAA has long advocated that there would appear to be no meaningful measurement of performance of Police based on their ability to deliver their service beyond the actual recording of incidents.
There is no measure that would highlight a particular Police workplace or a particular police member of any rank failing to deliver the Police service at a standard set by the organisation and meeting the expectations of the community, who pay for it.
Just two examples of service delivery that the community waits for. The Police Advice Line promised for last year, and response time statistics both seem to have evaporated. No progress reports, they have just dropped off into oblivion.
For that matter, it is not clear what the performance level in delivering the Police service Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) is by Victoria Police; other than Crime statistics. That makes it extremely hard to impossible to measure service delivery.
Moreover, there would appear to be no strategy developed for identifying and correcting anomalies, so there is little chance of the problem being rectified soon.
The CAA strongly supports the men and woman of the Victoria Police often doing jobs that nobody else can or will do, in sometimes-horrific circumstances, but even with that rider this concept of ‘Respect’, closely aligned to trust, must be earned and cannot be demanded.
It is time the management processes of Victoria Police are subject to review to bring them up to date with modern and current best practices.
26th April 2019
It would not be hard to conclude that the horror stories that the Community Advocacy Alliance (CAA) have reported to date would lead readers to believe that these nightmares were confined to the “Other Ranks”, that is below Officer rank but alas for some Officers that is not true.
Although we are exploring several stories by former Officers, this one is particularly cruel with sad consequences.
The policy introduced some time ago to rotate Officers probably had some sound logic which escapes most of us, but it can and is used as a brutal, demeaning and soul destroying tool that allows bullies to specifically target individuals whom perhaps do not fit a particular “Corporate Model”.
Usually not related to any lack of performance the rotations or transfer for temporary duty occur without any consideration as to the impact on the member or their family so it can be doubly cruel. Moreover, because the members are Officers, they are supposed to cop it on the chin.
3845 was a Superintendent, by any standard a high rank in the Police Force.
He was very fit and a genuine outdoor type respected by his staff and the public alike. His greatest sin, having spent a good deal of his service in the country, was the popularity he enjoyed from his staff. His partner and friends judged him to be of the highest moral and ethical standards displaying a strength of character, not all are gifted with.
As a country Superintendent, he was surprised to have an Assistant Commissioner ring him out of the blue. Before any pleasantries could be exchanged and seemingly without hesitation, the Commissioner launched into a tirade about his character. He was accused of dishonesty and a raft of other allegations of crimes which he knew nothing about.
The Assistant Commissioner would not let him get a word in talking over the top of him in a relentless tirade telling him the Ethical Standards Department (EDS) were going to come and sort him out.
It probably did not occur to 3845 right at that moment, but this was an extremely odd way to run an investigation into serious misconduct of any member let alone a senior officer, ringing them up and abusing them with the allegations.
When 3845 eventually got to say something he told the Commissioner that the accusations related to a totally different geographical location where he had never worked. 3845 then determined that the Commissioner thought he was talking to another member. A completely different rank and work location with a different first name and two additional letters in his surname, that, when pronounced could not be confused with the Superintendent.
The response from the Assistant Commissioner having been caught out so embarrassingly was to hang up. No apology, no belated email or follow up call to apologise, nothing. The performance of the Assistant Commissioner over this incident goes directly to the character of the Commissioner, and you can be the judge of that.
Most of this rant was a blur as 3845 related the event to a trusted friend who was also a Police member he had known for many years. It was obvious to his friend that this event had taken a severe toll on somebody that the friend believed was very strong. No shrinking violet this man.
However, the Superintendent’s belief in the Victoria Police had been shattered by the event, and he took it all very hard perhaps because of his character it was such a damaging blow.
After this incident, his partner and friends started to notice this once robust individual was not as robust as he once was and noticed the stress was taking its toll, probably aggravated by the heroic Assitant Commissioner without the courage to apologise.
Aggravating the disposition of the Superintendent, he was sent to another Command temporarily, not rotated which is considered permanent at least until the next rotation. Unlike the rotations in the metropolitan area that can be very inconvenient adding hours to a days commute, the Superintendent was sent from one side of the State to the other, over 500 kilometres away; this one was a doozy even by Vicpol standards, probably a 5-6 hour commute, each way. With eight hours of work, presumably, sleep was not seen as necessary.
His predecessor had left many distasteful tasks unattended requiring 3845 to clean up the mess, so to speak. And what happened to his predecessor? Promoted of course.
The Department however generously decided to fund the Superintendent for a few months in temporary accommodation but soon that was withdrawn, and he was forced to, “couch surf” until he could find something.
How demeaning to treat any member let alone a Senior Officer like that. As most who have tried to get tempory accommodation in the bush can attest it is not easy with landlords shunning people who are looking for temporary digs.
Sometime later 3845 was towing his caravan on leave when he lost control and was involved in a serious accident where his partner was injured as was 3845. With the tyranny of distance, a superior officer to 3845 told him to take time off to look after his partner which he did.
At least there are pockets of compassion still in the organisation, but that compassion was soon shattered when another Assistant Commissioner rang 3845 and accused him of bludging on the system, the same system that located his workplace on the other side of the State.
This was pretty much the last straw for 3845 and his health now started to deteriorate at a faster rate. Shattered because he had given Victoria Police over forty years of dedicated service where he put Policing above everything else and the organisation he loved and served was now to destroy him.
When 3845 called into his mate’s place on the way back from a conference, his mate was shocked how 3845 had deteriorated and just how his faith in Victoria Police had been shattered. The toll it was taking on him, was frighteningly obvious.
He and the Superintendent’s partner eventually cajoled him into seeking medical help.
He was diagnosed with a serious health issue and died a little over twelve months later.
The contribution by Victoria Police to the premature death of this member is problematic but to rub salt, the support, with only one exception, during his illness was next to non-existent, including support for his long-time partner to consider her welfare.
The one exception was a Deputy Commissioner whom 3845 had attended Airlie Officers Course and developed a friendship with and he at least maintained contact the Superintendent. The heroes of this story, of course, nowhere to be seen.
The rotation system must be disbanded to remove a tool bullies can use to destroy any police they choose to dislike. It is essential that the Chief Commissioner has the authority to move personnel to meet operational and functional demands, but that should be the exception rather than the rule.
You may ask about the Victoia Police welfare support mechanisms, well just keep asking. A workforce of around 20,000 police members most on the frontline and an ineffective under-resourced welfare system, who is responsible?
It is very sad that the member died so relatively young but even more disappointing is how a once proud and compassionate organisation has been allowed to deteriorate to such a degree, callous and heartless would be our call.
What happened to the villain? Nothing as far as we know and neither he or the organisation has felt it necessary to express some contrition to the family. They are still waiting in vain.
Moreover, while the villain continues to return to his family, we can only hope his day of reckoning is to come, and he has to atone for his disgraceful behaviour.
Editor’s note:3843 has not (yet?) been formally diagnosed with PTSD, but the circumstances of this case are parallel to many who have been.
How would you feel if all of a sudden you found that there had been a major exposé on National prime time television alleging terrible things about you and you had no idea of the allegations and moreover no idea the matter would be broadcast by our beloved National Broadcaster the ABC on its flagship program ‘The 7.30 Report’? So much for broadcasters standards and ethics clearly they do not apply to our ABC.
Although your employer at multiple levels was aware of the impending broadcast, neither management nor the ABC sought to advise you, seek comment, or give you a chance to respond. An allegation that named 3843 alleging that he, was amongst other things,” A Police Officer who cannot be trusted”, an unchallenged statement left out there to dangle and ruin his reputation.
Now magnify your feelings by your employment and location. A Detective Sergeant in charge of a Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU) in a rural town where everybody knows almost everybody else and the embarrassment and humiliation would be acute. Add further to that, the allegation related to an alleged pedophile priest, and as any reasonable person evaluating 3843’s circumstance would understand how he would be gutted.
The allegation made was that he was friends with a priest and had been obstructing the investigation surrounding the priest.
An accusation 3843 strenuously denies. There was never any evidence to support the allegations.
The priest was arrested and charged over historical allegations and died before the matter could be tested at court. So his guilt or innocence was never determined but there would be no doubt he would have been convicted in the court of public opinion as would anybody associated with him.
When 3843 became aware of the broadcast, he immediately prepared a written statement setting out the truth of the matter and requested Victoria Police officially forward the rebuttal to the ABC. Victoria Police refused.
3843 at his own initiative within days of the broadcast, went to Ethical Standards Department (ESD) to provide and participated in a taped interview about the truth of the matters refuting the inferences and statements made and aired on the ABC.
An investigation was launched by ESD into the allegations.
Editors note: The word investigation comes up regularly in these case studies, and in its basic definitions.” An investigation is, “A search for the truth in the interests of justice in accordance with the specifications of the law.” Not a search for a truth that suits the investigator because that is not the truth and investigators indulging themselves in this practice should be severely sanctioned whether it is against police or others.
The ESD prepared a brief of evidence alleging 3843 ‘attempted to pervert the course of justice.’ This offence carries a maximum penalty of twenty years imprisonment, no half a sixpence worth of worry for anybody.
After what would have been a torturous six months the brief was assessed by the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP), and the OPP declared there was insufficient evidence to lay any criminal charges. Pity ESD could not work that out saving a lot of money and angst. A formal apology at this time would have been appropriate.
Not to be outdone Victoia Police initiated disciplinary action against 3843 necessitating over some months further representations by 3843. The internal action was eventually withdrawn. Once again because there was no evidence to support this action.
3843 still lives under a cloud of suspicion even though no action was ultimately taken against him; he set about trying to clear his name.
3843 started by making Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to get to the truth as to why he was dishonestly targeted. This was a long process with obstructions placed at every turn with most of the important information withheld.
Just another example of how Victoria Police show contempt for the ’Model Litigant’ guidelines applicable to all Government Departments. This raises the question as to whether this flagrant disregard applies to all requests or just requests made about internal Police matters.
3843 is understandably passionate about getting the statements of the two members who made complaints against him so he can directly address their false allegations.
After many years of dedicated and loyal service to Victoria Police and the Community, 3843 retired, disgusted and disillusioned with the Chief Commissioner who refused to investigate his complaints against the two members concerned. A lawful requirement under the Police Regulation Act.
As in many like cases, there was no call or recognition from the organisation to thank 3843 for his thirty-six years of exemplary service.
The bulk of Victoria Police and in particularly hard-working detectives go about their ‘sworn duty’ to detect and prosecute civilian criminal behaviour, generally to the finest degree, twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. Regularly their families suffered as a result of their workload. 3843 like many other competent detectives, is very proud of his service.
Victoria Police and in particular their internal investigation departments far too often fail the same legal, ethical and professional standard that the Police they are investigating are expected to, and in most cases do, maintain. Senior police continually neglect to follow encourage and ensure the highest standards of an investigation searching for the whole truth. They possess a belief that they are above the rules and laws of our State.
3843 genuinely believes that Victoria Police fails to understand the general gist of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI). They improperly protect information that will disgrace or embarrass Victoria Police and in particular any information that may relate to a Senior Officer.
Their obstructionism and failure to be a good and decent Government Agency under the Model Litigant guidelines and policies is astonishing and limitless.
The Government must take responsibility for this behaviour and insist on the implementation of stringent measures to make Victoria Police more transparent and accountable. Complete transparency will build the confidence of police and the public in equal measure.
Affirmative action by Government will have the bonus of starting to rebuild more respect in the Victoria Police something that currently continues to wane.
As far as 3843 is concerned, it is not too late for Victoria Police to offer an apology to rebuild the ex-members character in his community.
The battle, for over a decade, continues for 3843, and we are unable to report on the matter further at this stage, but it continues.
To think a little effort and contrition by Victoria Police and respect for 3843 would have concluded this matter years ago.
As with this and other stories in the pipeline, there seems to be a case mounting for Victoria Police to have a ‘ Sorry Day’ to atone for all the wrongs.
There are a lot of victims out there.
4th April 2019
This case starts off fairly benignly with a respected country Detective Sergeant with substantial service including a period in the Homicide Squad and an unblemished record of service in a large provincial Victorian town. 3842 was responsible for dealing with the crime in this large town and a large swathe of the surrounding rural areas.
He had also lived in the town with his family for a number of years and was very well known and respected by locals. Although he did not seek promotion, he was content with his lot and comfortable that he was doing some good keeping his community safe.
The wheels started to come unstuck when one Sunday after returning from leave 3842 was contacted by a uniform member from the station to tell him he was going out to search a rural property where there had been a sizable burglary while 3842 was on leave. 3842 was aware of the burglary, and he was concerned because a firearm collection was part of the bounty that had a total value of approximately $100,000.
Subsequently, the uniform member made a second call to 3842 to say that he had located some of the stolen property in a disused dilapidated caravan on the vast property. The farm was some distance from town in a remote part of the bush and some thirty to forty minutes travelling time, well off the beaten track.
When he did arrive the member that had called him was waiting and on the ground was a badly injured male person whom the 3842 did not recognise but later found out he was a very active crook with substantial prior convictions from interstate.
3842 called an ambulance, and the injured suspect was put under guard, and 3842 started to piece together what had happened.
The police member that called him to the scene was suspended at the time for other matters, but the suspect was loosely related to him and had fallen on hard times. The suspended Police member approached the property owner who had a vacant manager’s house to see if the suspect could use it. The property owner is very wealthy and is also very generous and agreed to the arrangement.
The injuries to the suspect were significant and were explained by the suspended member as, when he confronted the suspect, the suspect allegedly produced and attacked him with a screwdriver. Much later 3842 had reservations about this version of events.
Because of the injury to the suspect, the Duty Senior Sergeant contacted Professional Standards Command (PSC) and two detectives from PSC were dispatched to the town arriving the next day.
To the absolute surprise of 3842, he was removed from the case, and it was transferred to another Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU) some substantial distance away. Very odd because they would lack the local knowledge essential in this investigation.
It did not take long for 3842 to find out that he was in trouble for something although he was bewildered about what he had done that was wrong.
A formal interview by Professional Standards Command (PSC)of 3842 followed, and he was subsequently suspended from duty and charged with,’ attempting to pervert the course of justice‘.
The allegation was that when he spoke to a relative of the farmer in Town to update him on the investigation, he allegedly refused to listen to information from the relative. This was the crime?
After the formal interview, some substantial time elapsed and he was called in to be charged and suspended.
3842 had the unenviable task of telling his family he had been suspended and charged which devastated them. Something he still becomes emotional about.
3842 also endured the devastation and embarrassment peculiar to a country town where people can not enjoy the anonymity of a big city. Something from which he has never recovered.
The suspension was not treated in confidence, and it was not long before most of the town who knew him were aware of his suspension and knew it was as a result of the robbery on the highly regarded Farmer who is a district icon.
Being shunned in a country town has no parallel in the metropolitan area or a large provincial city.
Having been charged with an indictable offence, the matter must go for Trial before a Judge and Jury. However, the process involves a Committal hearing at a Magistrate’s Court to determine whether there is a case to answer. The suspended policeman referred to earlier was charged as a co-accused of 3842.
At the Committal hearing, it was determined that 3842 had no case to answer and his matter was dismissed. The co-accused was committed for trial and subsequently was acquitted at trial on the basis that he was acting in self-defence. A solid defence that should have been obvious to the PSC.
One would expect having had the matter dealt with, that would be the end of it, and 3842 could return to work and try to rebuild his damaged reputation.
That was not to be. The Police Executive decided to direct 3842 to take all accrued leave and long service leave.
As they had not succeeded with the criminal matter, they then embarked on a disciplinary approach to target 3842.
Management was within their rights to exercise this instruction, but by this time 3842 was not in a good mental state, and he was placed on sick leave by his doctor.
While on sick leave he was advised that there were some disciplinary charges and he had to face a hearing.
Bearing in mind that his health was still fragile he appeared before the disciplinary hearing and all but one of the charges was struck out leaving a single charge to which he was advised by his legal counsel to plead guilty.
As a result of this plea, he received a caution.
What will surprise readers is that the offence that was sustained was for failing to put crime scene tape around a crime scene at a remote property miles from any town and a long way from any public road.
It is not surprising that 3842 who had weathered this cyclone for over two years broke down at this hearing.
It took nearly eight months for 3842 to be reinstated – no apology and in contrast to when he was originally suspended by three senior officers his reinstatement was by a message from his local station.
For all he had endured he was convicted of not putting crime scene tape around the scene of the robbery.
What is particularly galling to 3842 is that the somebody from PSC having failed to get 3842 committed for trial went back to the witness relative of the farmer, and tried to get him to change his story. This information to 3842 came from a member of the police executive that we can presume was not comfortable with what was going on.
Whoever approached the witness has committed an egregious crime.
That approach is Prima Facie,’ attempting to pervert the course of justice.’ Even worse, the original suspect has never been charged with the $100,000 burglary, a very serious crime by any measure and even more so because there is little doubt that the gun collection is now circulating in the criminal community.
In summary 3842 has had his life ruined and now suffers permanent health issues as a direct result of this fiasco when his only offence was not putting crime scene tape around a remote crime scene where the greatest risk to contamination of the crime scene would have been the local kangaroo population.
3842 has now retired and after nearly forty years of devoted service and only one crime scene tape blemish, he did not even receive a call from anybody in management to formally thank him for his service and to wish him well.
The sad thing is that 3842 still suffers from the treatment metered out by the Police Force, and in our experience 3842 displays all the symptoms of PTSD induced by Judicial Personnel Management.
He now has to live with the consequences for the rest of his life and the two detectives from PSC, and the crook responsible for the burglary get off scot-free, as do the managers who promoted this artifice.
Recently one of his own former detectives told 3842 that when the matter was going on, he had the opportunity to see the Brief that the two PSC detectives had compiled. He commented that if he submitted such a poor brief, it would never be authorised. The PSC member responded, ”Yeah, but he is a police member.”
Clearly one rule for the crooks, and another for Police.
Victoria Police must be held to account.
The Community Advocacy Alliance Inc. calls for the urgent formation of a Commission of Review to examine this and many other instances of the mismanagement bordering on criminal behaviour of Victoria Police and the cruel and unconscionable processes applied to Police members by the hierarchy.
Ultimately the responsibility for this behaviour is the Chief Commissioner the one person that can fix it.
Postscript: When 3842 was first interviewed the investigators accused him of was not wearing his issue Operational Safety and Tactical Training (OSTT) equipment. Detectives at that stage had not been issued a belt to carry the equipment. Talk about pedantic. Bizarrely the interviewing detectives were without their equipment belts. A demonstration of absolute power no doubt.
22nd March 2019
The Tasmanian government has introduced a bill aiming to make it easier for emergency workers to access post-traumatic stress disorder compensation.
Emergency workers in Tasmania will have better access to post-traumatic stress disorder compensation under legislation put forward by the state government.
The bill, tabled in state government on Wednesday, reverses the onus of proof in PTSD compensation claims and assumes workers have suffered the injury while on the job.
“This legislation acknowledges the incredibly difficult situations that many of our emergency responders … face in the line of work,” Minister for Building and Construction Sarah Courtney said.
16th March 2019
Editor’s note: This is the first published story of this project and we chose to start the numbering system of case studies from Lawyer X case numbering, 3838 because like that issue, this has a management problem (Management Matrix) at its core. We have a number of stories some far worse than this and by any measure, this one is particularly cruel but we are restricted in publishing for legal reasons. They will be published along with new ones over the coming months.)
In nearly twenty years’ service, case number 3840 served in various roles from general duties at metropolitan police stations, criminal investigation duties and plainclothes investigations.
For family reason 3840 moved to a station closer to home. The station was very busy and it had a high workload. It also attracted huge numbers of Holidaymakers and day-trippers over the summer season and this was accompanied by an explosion in workload. Frustratingly the police executives could not see this issue and were not supportive as it was deemed the number of Police adequate, even though the population would more than double in this period.
It would seem that maths is not a strong skill set for police executives.
During this madhouse period, the necessity occurred for him to lift a deceased person out of public view.
As a result, he hurt his back moving the ‘dead weight’ and soon realised it was no ordinary sore back, but something more severe.
He had to seek medical intervention and it was discovered that he had ruptured a disk in his back. As a result, a Work Cover claim was lodged and approved. 3840 managed the injury with the help of physio and continued working for a couple of years.
The injury further deteriorated dramatically with the only option of major surgery.
The disk had now moved and distorted causing further nerve damage and of course severe pain. The surgery and rehabilitation was long and painful and has left him with a permanent disability.
At no stage during the lead up to the surgery or during his recovery did he receive any form of support or contact from anyone in management at any level.
Unable to work, support was little and far between. Months and months without being contacted by anyone from VicPol and he had to rely on his wife and eighty-year-old father to drive him to appointments. Apart from the physical issues he was facing, he was now also suffering from depression and anxiety.
3840 felt completely alone throughout the whole process. He finally received a call from an Acting Senior Sergeant that he knew from his Station but by that stage, he did not feel up to meeting anybody making token gestures from VicPol. – His value and self-esteem were dashed replaced by bitterness from being neglected.
He remained off work for many months fighting the physical and mental issues.
A new Station commander was appointed and he at least made contact but claimed that 3840 did not want to be contacted however he claimed that the station Peer Support Officer had been in constant contact with 3840 and his wife. A claim vigorously repudiated by 3840. He had never at any time spoken to or had contact with this Officer.
The Station commander subsequently told 3840 that the Station welfare role has issues and he was taking over the function to sort it.
Added to the poor performance of VicPol his experience at being on sick leave has been nothing short of traumatic and what must always be borne in mind, this is a sick person so that makes any attempt to shift blame to him, repugnant.
He is, however, one of the few members to say he was quite happy with the Work Cover insurer, Gallagher Bassett. His issue solely lays with the appalling welfare system at Victoria Police.
Even more galling to 3840 and others is that while the Chief Commissioner and the Secretary of the Police Association were doing a high profile walk in support of ex-members, the reason that many need that support, is directly attributable to how they were treated by the organisation.
3840 has had no support, no offers of help and a complete feeling of being a total outcast and unwanted. After nearly two years of being treated like this, he was finally sent to the Police Medical Officer (PMO) and was ill health retired.
The separation process was as demeaning as the treatment he had received thus far.
Reporting to his Station to hand in his identification and operational items as he is required to do, was a process that was rubbing salt into already exposed wounds. The Station Commander filled out an end of service form that 3840 had already completed. The Station Commander was totally uninterested in his situation and circumstances. Apparently, he could not have cared less and could not even disguise the fact that he didn’t care. 3840 spent approximately five minutes inside the station before leaving – and that was the glorious end to his nearly twenty-year career with Victoria Police.
He never heard from anyone in management again. He did, however, hear via a police member at the police station, that the Station Commander was happy that he had been ill health retired, as it freed up a position at the Station.
On his last formal day of service as a member of the Victoria Police, he didn’t even receive a phone call or message from anyone in management at all.
After the issues, he and his family faced over the last two years prior to his service being terminated he at least expected a phone call or a message a simple “thank you for your service and good luck with your future” would have sufficed.
His work prospects are now very limited, permanently disabled, the impact on his family is everlasting. A job and career he initially felt immense pride in, has been replaced by resentment.
Three weeks after his service ended he received a call from his Station Commander who started with the excuse that basically everybody was on leave at the time of his retirement, hence the reason that nobody knew it was his last day. He also clarified that members do not receive calls at the end of their service from anybody over the rank of Senior Sergeant.
The whole welfare process from day one for 3840 has been appalling, no contact, or oversights, no help but now aggravated by the excuses.
Since his retirement, he has met with two other members asking for help to fill out their Work Cover Forms. Both are suffering from major mental health issues and were disappointed with the lack of welfare support from the same Station. Both felt that management should have assisted them more with some basic advice and at least helped during the early stages of their process but, unfortunately, that help was not forthcoming.
There is a lot of talk about how Victoria Police looks after its members and how seriously it takes the health and wellbeing of their staff and lots of acknowledgement about the mental strain police work has on members, sadly with some taking their own lives. We hear about initiatives being put in place to get members back to work and to support them in a time of need. From the experience of 3840 this is all talk – he saw no evidence of this sort of support.
Having been on his side of the ‘blue line’ he can attest that the current system is broken – and it has broken him.
The Victoria Police claim of being a proud organisation makes 3840 wonder if Victoria Police is proud of how they treated him?
22 FEBRUARY 2019
By Terry Flanders*
The public sleeps more soundly knowing they are protected at night and that help is but a quick 000 call away. How well would you sleep if, in fact, you could not rely on our emergency first responders to provide the services we expect?
On 24 July 2018, the NSW Upper House inquiry delivered their report[i] entitled ‘Emergency services agencies’, into ‘policy response to bullying, harassment and discrimination in certain emergency service agencies’. On 15 February 2019, a second inquiry conducted by the Australian Senate delivered their report[ii] on ‘The people behind 000: mental health of our first responders’.
When read together, the reports offer a disturbing insight into how the agencies running the police, fire brigade, ambulance and 000 call centres treat the people whom we depend upon to make us safe and secure.
Emergency services respond to a vehicle accident – 9 News.
The NSW inquiry disclosed management systems within different agencies as all having, to some degree, unsafe systems of work[iii], and made a number of recommendations.
The federal Senate inquiry predominately called for more research and provided an expanded view of the problem. The federal Inquiry also went outside first responder agencies to review the effects of the worker’s compensation and independent medical examiners sourced by insurance companies.
Both reports provide a disturbing, behind-the-scenes insight into problems that can affect us all.
As a former member of the NSW Police I have watched as, over the years, the culture of the NSW Police took on a more corporate management approach to law enforcement. An approach that, given the content of both reports, I would characterise as unethical if not criminal in some circumstances.
Although this article focuses on the mismanaged systems that relate to NSW Police, my opinions and conclusions largely apply to other emergency first responder agencies at the state and national level.
To sustain large social systems, society needs to be governed. In Australia, we are afforded certain rights and liberties which are balanced by societal norms influenced by cultural or ideological pressures and bounded by the judicial system. Justice, equality and civil liberties are fundamental principles that should apply to all.
Sadly, however, these concepts are applied disproportionately to different sections of our society. It is arguable that, in NSW, the most disadvantaged group of people are the members of the NSW Police Force.
NSW police managers have engaged in practices I would describe as ‘judicial performance management’. This occurs when police managers use their legal authority to arrest and charge and/or apply for a search warrant, listening device warrants and/or telephone intercepts against police.
The effect is that the judiciary is made part of the police performance management system. Examples[iv] include Phil Arantz, Harry Blackburn and Operation Mascot. In 1971 Mr Arantz disclosed that police were keeping two sets of crime statistics: he was declared mentally ill. Mr Blackburn was charged in 1989 with 13 sexual assault crimes and other offences, crimes that were not supported by the available evidence while evidence supporting Mr Blackburn’s innocence was ignored.
Operation Mascot – which ran between 1999 and 2001 – saw more than 100 police being electronically monitored as part of an investigation. ‘Mascot’ did uncover some corrupt and criminal activity, but was also responsible for one suicide, attempted suicide and the mental breakdown of a number of police who apparently did not commit any crimes[v].
Events show a pattern
These three examples, taken separately, may appear as disassociated historical events. I would argue that the three examples are part of a growing body of evidence that shows a ‘modus operandi’ supporting the argument that judicial performance management is being used.
The body of evidence includes the workplace health and safety (WHS) criminal antecedents of the NSW Police, as well as appeals by some police who have been the subject of Section 181D applications under the NSW Police Act. With nine convictions involving incidents of serious injury and death, the NSW Police can be described as a ‘WHS criminal recidivist’.
When a police officer is being dismissed for unethical or conduct offences, they have a right of appeal by making a Section 181D application to the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC).
In nine matters where police officers appealed decisions by police managers, the IRC upheld the appeal, finding that the NSW Police acted unfairly, harshly or unjustly. What distinguishes these cases from others is that the police officers had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) prior to engaging in conduct that police managers viewed as warranting dismissal. Effectively, I believe, they were being ‘performance managed’ out of the police.
In upholding the appeals, the IRC seems to be indicating that the police management running the process may have been acting unethically. It should be noted that in addition to these nine police officers, another three officers exposed to this system committed suicide.
Supporting the argument that the police management system is in part, unethical, harsh and unjust are findings from the NSW Royal Commission into Police Corruption[vi] conducted by Justice Wood in the mid-1990s.
The Wood RC found that police engage in what Commissioner Wood described as “process corruption”. The definition of ‘process corruption’ includes:
Gilding the evidence to present a better case”[vii].
In a continuing discussion about police corruption, Commissioner Wood introduced the concept of ‘noble cause’[viii].
‘Noble cause’ is also referenced throughout an ‘Office of Police Integrity Report’ (2007) titled ‘Past Patterns – Future Directions Victoria Police’ and the problem of corruption and serious misconduct’. It would seem that ‘gilding the evidence to present a better case’ creates cognitive dissonance in the police who use ‘noble cause’ as a euphemism to rationalise and mitigate dissonance when expected practices become unethical or cross over to criminal misconduct. Another excuse for ‘gilding the evidence’ is that NSW police managers are acting in the “spirit” of the law.
Mission wording critical
The ‘mission’ of the NSW Police Force is to work with the community to reduce violence, crime and fear, according to Section 6 of the NSW Police Act. Section 6 has more to offer as it includes the following statement regarding the ‘functions’ of the NSW police. In effect, police are instructed by law “to do anything for, or incidental to, the exercise of its functions”.
Section 6 of the Police Act does not constrain police by including a phrase like ‘…to do anything (within the law) …’.
Whether or not judicial performance management is an appropriate term, what is evident is that the culture of the NSW Police is broken. Dr Andrew Hopkins, addressing ‘Culture and Leadership’ makes the following comments:
The concept of culture has been defined in a multitude of ways: observed behavioural regularities, group norms, espoused values, formal philosophy, rules of the game, climate, embedded skills, habits of thinking, shared meanings and root metaphors”[ix].
Leaders create and change cultures, while managers and administrators live within them”[x].
Evidence from the federal Senate Inquiry (para 3.47) supports the view that in fact the NSW Police culture is broken.
This is supported by other evidence, such as that pertaining to NSW Police. Although NSW Police did not wish to engage with this inquiry and declined opportunities to make a submission or appear at a public hearing, the committee noted witnesses’ scepticism about policies being put into place by the service”.
A common thread linking all these individual events is the concept of workplace “violence”, towards police, which is enabled under nationally-harmonised WHS laws. In this case – as identified in the NSW Upper House Inquiry and implied by the federal Senate Inquiry – workplace violence includes bullying and harassment. Such behaviour is a crime under WHS legislation and is commonly described as unreasonable management practices.
But, I would argue, a situation has developed where the law enforcers are also lawbreakers against their own employees. The obvious question is why/how has this happened?
In answering this question, you must consider two aspects.
• The first is that the NSW Police are the principal WHS criminal investigators in NSW, so who will investigate them?
• Secondly, police officers making a complaint against police managers can only complain to other police managers.
Police managers investigate their colleagues: the investigating police work at the same police station where the respondent and complainant are stationed. This is a closed system, which means that the system is ‘corrupted’ by its very nature, and must add to the increasing stressors placed on police officers.
‘Triaging’ narrows focus
How police managers appear to ‘investigate’ complaints is by triaging the complaint. The triage process deconstructs the event and any attributable evidence. The investigator(s) focus is narrowed so some facts are saved, and some are discarded or become less reliable (triage). The complaint is then re-assembled based on facts supporting the police managers’ perspective. The newly-constructed event and the supporting ‘gilded’ evidence is now the basis of further actions whether disciplinary or legal.
Harmonised WHS legislation extends the range of white-collar crimes. With an extensive history of repeat WHS convictions over the years, NSW Police managers show a demonstrated pattern of behaviour over decades that has been recently reported in evidence relied upon by both the NSW and federal inquiries.
While my comments relate specifically to NSW Police management systems, after reading both inquiry reports, it is obvious to varying degrees they are equally relevant to other police and emergency first responder organisations.
Sadly, the literature indicates that sufferers of PTSD may not recognise they are affected by stress and may engage in hedonistic behaviour, take alcohol or drugs and become aggressive. While the Person Conducting the Business or Undertaking (PCBU, as used in WHS ‘speak’ – and meaning the NSW Police Force in this discussion) may not be directly responsible in some cases for the mental health of workers, the PCBU is responsible for developing safe systems of work and the culture that is behind those safe systems.
It is a sad indictment on the NSW Police Force that the organisation did not support the federal Senate inquiry as actions speak louder than words.
Governments are sometimes reluctant to act when the result will highlight chronic failures in social systems. The elephant in the room in this situation is that our social perception of safety and security is at risk daily: actions (and inactions) by first responders will only shine a spotlight on the depth of the issue over time.
Evidence refutes ‘safe and secure’
The evidence implies we are not ‘safe’ and ‘secure’. In 2015, eight emergency responders committed suicide in Australia [xi]. This figure only relates to full-time emergency responders, not part-time, volunteers or those medically retired so it is likely at the lower end of the real situation.
With the evidence now collected by both Inquiries, how long will it be before the federal, state and territory governments action this matter? I fully support the recommendations in the NSW Upper House report but would add the following:
• Firstly, a review panel including experts and those with lived experience of mental health gained while working as emergency first responders be established to guide the implementation of the recommendations, and
• Secondly, that Section 6 of NSW Police Act is amended to direct police to do ‘anything within the law’ when exercising their powers.
As far as law enforcement is concerned the thin blue line is broken. We are not ‘safe’ and ‘secure’. If NSW Police managers treat fellow officers unethically, harshly and unjustly; then what are they capable of doing to other people, like normal citizens?
Apathy tacitly supports unethical practices.
My final recommendation is that government must act now to deal with workplace-generated mental health issues affecting first responders by expanding the definition of ‘first responders’ to include defence force personnel and doctors and nurses in the hospital system, and perhaps others.
My experience with police managers having investigated a matter internally and attempting to justify their unjustifiable actions is that they conclude the matter by informing the complainant that “no further correspondence will be entered into”.
That’s a response I find completely unsatisfactory. What keeps me awake at night is the thought that if we can’t look after those who look after us, what emergency response do we deserve?
* Terry Flanders is a former NSW Police Detective Sergeant with 23 years experience as a police officer. He currently operates a safety and security consultancy service called ‘Investigation Systems’ with a focus on workplace violence. He is a member of the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS), a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and a Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA), Certified Generalist OHS Professional (CGOHSP)
Note 1: Police officers are starting to fight back against inequitable treatment, and are having wins in the courts. For example, in Susan Buswell v TAL Life Limited (2018) NSWSC 1507, decided late in 2018, the 25-year-police veteran Buswell won her claim that her income protection benefits should not be cut by an insurance company. The case may open the doors for the many police officers forced to resign on physical or mental health grounds but denied full benefits to demand their situations be reviewed.
Note 2: The NSW Government has responded to the report of the NSW Legislative Council. In summary, the government tacitly supports the current broken system of work and will not generate the positive changes called for in the report. It seems that this is just another way of saying ‘no further correspondence will be entered into’.
New hope for Australian victims if the toughest mental trauma: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/act/new-hope-for-australian-victims-of-the-toughest-mental-trauma-20190221-p50zcz.html
[iii] NSW Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) Act Section 19 ‘Primary duty of care’. http://tinyurl.com/y2y7o8ov
[iv] Committee on the Office of the Ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commission Research Report on Trends in Police Corruption (2002)
[v] ‘The Australian’ (18.02.18) ‘How honest cops were hounded out of the NSW Police Force’.
[vii] Brown, D. (1998) ‘Current Issues in Criminal Justice’, Volume 9 No. 3 (P. 229)
[viii] Brown, D. (1998) ‘Current Issues in Criminal Justice’, Volume 9 No. 3 (P. 230)
[ix] Hopkins, A. (2008) “Failure to Learn: ‘The BP Texas City Refinery disaster”, CCH Australia (P. 8).
[x] Hopkins, A. (2005) “Safety Culture and Risk: The Organisational Causes of Disasters”, CCH Australia (P. 8).
[xi] Senate report ‘The people behind 000: mental health of our first responders’ (para 2.52)
19th January 2019
PTSD is a major work based health hazard for police members as individuals and to the productivity of Victoria Police.
We have learnt that in nearly every case that we have been made aware of, that the problem has been made worse by the way the system has dealt with the Police member. Although complete conjecture as we are not clinicians, we are fast forming the view that although operational demands may be at the core of the disorder the severity of the case can be exacerbated by the process that the members are subjected to.
The system clearly lacks compassion that may be offered in a physiological health issue.
A combination of poor management practices and an adversarial compensation system combine to ensure any member unfortunate enough to suffer this disorder is sure to have their matter aggravated by the system.
The two components, management practices and an adversarial system, are fixable and it is irresponsible for Victoria Police and the Government to persist with a system that continues to damage vulnerable members.
In our view that is cruel and unconscionable behaviour.
Repairing either or both aspects will not of itself reduce the likelihood of members suffering PTSD or other similar medical issues but early intervention may reduce the severity.
We fail to see why people of good will cannot see and repair this flawed system.
The other aspect of PTSD is what now must be an astronomical cost, in not only Medical services and compensation, but also the cost of legal representations and settlements by Victoria Police. Although the majority of the cost is born directly by the Insurers, that can be a very false economy. Insures are there to make a profit so somebody has to pay, it will not be them, so premiums must rise.
The loss of productivity by the members before and after diagnosis must also have an eye watering price tag.
The welfare of the members is paramount and the model established in Western Australia where set compensation is provided for their police, without the adversarial minefield, seems to be an attractive option.
Identifying (accurately) the current first and second tier cost, we would guess would go a long way to funding a Veteran’s scheme similar to the Military. The third tier is the hidden costs expended by retired members who may have to fund any late onset and treatment of PTSD personally.
The fourth tier is the families of the PTSD sufferers and what impact emotionally as well as financially is carried by them.
These suggestions will not fix everything but they could reduce the severity of the disorder. Better training of Management may soon improve outcomes for sufferers because managers with the necessary skills can identify members who are potentially inclined to PTSD and professional early intervention may save the member or at the very least reduce the severity of the affliction and the cost.
Sometimes being mercenary may move insurmountable hurdles.
9th November 2018
I had not long finished publishing a Post I did earlier today highlighting that poor management decisions that place substantial stress on Police members – I am confident that the Senior policeman at Rosebud referred to in that post did not speak out because of spite, but frustration and genuine concerns for his community and his staff.
I then received an email to let me know that yet another police member has apparently committed suicide at a police station and had been discovered by colleagues this morning.
This leaves me with opposing unpleasant emotions – Very angry that this death was probably avoidable and angry that the other members had to deal with one of their own and the consequences that may evolve with them.
I am also deeply saddened that a family has lost a loved one and Police have lost another colleague.
Most of my anger is directed at the Government and Victoria Police who have known that members are under unrealistic stress and it would appear that little is being done- certainly not enough to avoid this tragedy.
We do not, of course, know all the circumstances but that is hardly the point as any plaintive justification or excuse will be rejected and properly dismissed.
The Government and the Chief Commissioner are jointly responsible and must own the issue, accept responsibility and make meaningful changes – I am afraid that Premier Andrews’s continual mantra on police numbers is clearly not the solution. Something the CAA has been highlighting for a considerable time.
It is a management problem.
9th November 2018
The death of yet another Police member who lost their fight with coping must be a catalyst for change.
Do not let this death be in vain like so many before.
Do not use the mantra of ‘seek help’ and the other glib blame shifters to divert from the real problem which is clearly a management one. The Stress of the Job is the management not the function. With good management police all cope well with the function, they are resilient.
Show some leadership and take ownership of the issue, take control and fix it because this one might be on you.
These police members would not need to seek help if the organisation was managed properly and a work environment with less stress existed.
Mangers should be less concerned with their career and more concerned and focused on their subordinates and ensure they are properly resourced and supported.
This does not mean that they do less work because it is the environment they work in, not the work itself that is usually espoused as the culprit.
We challenge Premier Andrews and Chief Commissioner Ashton to properly address this issue without applying Band-Aids to placate the electorate with glib excuses. Grow a spine and fix it.
The CAA with over 600 years of executive policing experience has long ago identified the management and organisational failings and provided not just criticism solutions to correct the problem but has been dismissed as irrelevant and out of date.
The CAA is arguably more dedicated to Victoria Police than many VicPol managers who are more career focused than dedicated to the organisation and the police members. It is time that they recognised and the CAA advice needs to be given serious consideration – the current management of VicPol is not all that flash and could do with a hand.
The CAA stands ready to assist because – we care.
6th October 2018
As a former Chief Commissioner I am heartened and congratulate the efforts of Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton and Police Association Secretary Wayne Gatt in their effort to raise money for Retired Police (veterans) Peer Support program and awareness of the trauma faced by police veterans as a result of service to this State on their “Head to Head” walk.
During my service I saw mental health issues with serving police but they were of the overt type and the term PTSD was yet to be coined however I reflect back that the problem was probably just as bad as it is now but we did not recognise it. We did have limited psych services but the general attitude to members who were struggling was, “suck it up and get on with it.” It is only in later years I have recognised the trauma that mental health has on police veterans and their families who are often forgotten.
Time has passed and medical diagnostic skills have dramatically improved and I often wonder if we had the knowledge back then that we have now early intervention would have avoided chronic mental health issues suffered by veterans today.
The Community Advocacy Alliance (CAA) of which I am chair has been working on initiatives to assist in the problems faced by police veterans. We have presented our proposals to the Government and the Opposition as well as Federal politicians.
We wish you both great success in achieving substantial support for the real heroes of this issue, the Retired (Veterans) Police Peer Support officers.
Kelvin Glare AO APM
Chief Commissioner (Retired)
6th August 2017
“The Hub”, is a designated building designed to house several Police related Not for Profit organisations and critically to provide a purpose-built base for the operation of the Retired Police Peer Support Program.
The Retired Police Association (RPA) Peer Support Program (PSP) has only been operating for less than two years and has cobbled together sufficient funds to train up 41 Retired (PSP) staff who operate purely on a voluntary basis throughout Victoria and also cover their own and clients out of pocket expenses.
In this very short time frame, the group are looking after 400 ex-police varying in need from the company to serious mental health issues including depression, PTSD and addictions to gambling, drugs and alcohol.
The group are finding the same experience as the Department of Veterans Affairs where issues, particularly of PTSD, are manifesting later in life.
The CAA has recruited the recently Retired Deputy Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Mike O’Meara who has extensive experience in administering the Psych services of Defence to advise the CAA on the administration of these initiatives and to assist the RPA.
Based on world practises, we can assume that fifteen per cent of ex-members will need some assistance with mental health issues after they cease employment with VicPol.
This probably is replicated with other emergency services, particularly the Ambulance Service. To say that the RPA has seen but the tip of the iceberg is a statement made in fact. It is not unreasonable to warn the Government of a tsunami of mental health issues for ex-police that is not far away and the early intervention of a Peer Support Program may lessen the impact and cost when it arrives.
Funding is a pressing necessity with the program only having sufficient funds to see them through to mid-2017. Apart from the meagre funds of the RPA, the group have received funding from the Police Association to assist with training however the financial viability of the program for the long term must be addressed relatively urgently to allow the practitioners to get on with the job rather than worrying about funding. I am at a loss as to how PSP has been so successful to date given that they have achieved their success on such a minuscule budget and what they have achieved and is a testament to the dedication and ingenuity of the Retired members running the program.
Of a much more pressing necessity is the establishment of ”The Hub” facility which ideally will provide suitable accommodation for the PSP operatives and their administrative support but also house Clinicians to back up the program and act as a referral for some of the more dire cases handled by the PSP.
One of the problems is the stigma either real or perceived that people suffering mental health issues experience.
To that end, we propose to establish a commercial coffee shop as the front door of the services. A space people needing help can attend without fear of stigma. I am important that the Coffee shop is a commercial venture catering for the public to assist with the anonymity of people to access the resources.
The PSP has identified the security of the PSP operatives as a major concern as they are not permitted to attend private dwellings and currently their only option is to meet at local coffee shops. This is proving unsatisfactory by not offering the clients some confidentiality but also by the lack of security should a client have an episode.
We have identified a surplus Government building on the corner of Coventry and StKilda Road, South Bank, adjacent to Victoria Barracks. The building has been vacant for many years and originally housed the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatients Psych Service.
We understand that the building has either been or is in the process of being transferred from the Commonwealth to the State ownership and we understand that part of the ownership process is a condition that the Veterans Art created as part of the rehabilitation within DVA has a permanent display gallery.
We have not inspected the building, but it is highly probable that the needs of the “The Hub” could co-exist with the Gallery. Until we have access to the building we will not know the suitability.
The concept of “The Hub” requires the ability to develop a commercial coffee shop so location is important, good public transport and car access is essential and sufficient room to provide administration for RPA PSP, Blue Light Vic., CAA, Blue Ribbon, Police Legacy, Operation New Start, Police in Schools, Police Games Administration and clinical services to support RPA PSP.
We would be interested in accessing any alternate surplus Government Buildings preferably reasonably close to but not necessarily in the City.
Bringing all of these organisations together will have the bonus of improving their capacity to perform their various NFP functions and also add to the anonymity of ex-members going to the facility to seek help or undergo treatment.
It will also allow for easier access to these organisations by VicPol and the Government.
We would be pleased to discuss any options in relation to this initiative.
17th June 2017
“The Hub”, is a designated building designed to accommodate a number of Police related Not for Profit organizations and critically to provide a purpose built base for the operation of the Victoria Police Retired Police Association Peer Support Program (PSP) and support VicPol peer support activities.
The Retired Police Association (RPA) PSP has only been operating for less than two years and has cobbled together sufficient funds to train up 41 Retired Police PSP Councillors who operate purely on a voluntary basis throughout Victoria and also cover their own and clients out of pocket expenses.
In this very short time frame the group are looking after 400 ex police varying in need from social company to serious mental health issues including depression, PTSD and addictions to gambling, drugs and alcohol.
A parallel program is operated by Victoria Police and that program could be accommodated in part by “The Hub” in its operations.
The PSP group is having similar experience to the Department of Veterans Affairs where issues, particularly of PTSD attributable to service, are manifesting later in life.
The CAA was advised by the recently Retired Deputy Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Mike O’Meara who has extensive experience in administering the Psych services in Veterans Affairs, on the development of these initiatives.
Based on world experience we can assume that fifteen percent of ex- members will need some assistance with mental health issues after they cease employment with VicPol.
This would no doubt be replicated with other emergency services particularly the Ambulance Service. To say that the PSP, has seen but the tip of the iceberg, is a statement of fact. It is not unreasonable to warn the Government of a tsunami of mental health issues for ex- police that is not far away and the early intervention of the PSP may lessen the impact and cost when it arrives.
Funding is a pressing necessity with the PSP program that only has sufficient funds to see them through to mid-2018. Apart from the meagre funds of the PSP the group have received funding from the Police Association to assist with training however the financial viability of the program for the long term must be addressed relatively urgently to allow the practitioners to get on with the job rather than worrying about funding.
We are at a loss as to how PSP has been so successful to date given that they have achieved their success on such a minuscule budget. What they have achieved is testament to the dedication and ingenuity of the Retired members running the program.
Of a much more pressing necessity is the establishment of ”The Hub” facility which ideally will provide suitable accommodation for the PSP operatives and their administrative support but also house Clinicians to back up the program and act as referral for some of the more dire cases handled by the PSP.
One of the problems is the stigma either real or perceived that people suffering mental health issues and their families’ experience.
To that end our proposal is to establish a commercial coffee shop as the, “Front door”, of the services. A space people needing help can attend without fear of stigma. It is important that the Coffee shop is a commercial venture catering for the public to assist with the anonymity of people to access the resource and contribute to the operating costs of the PSP.
The PSP has identified the security of the PSP operatives as a major concern. They are not permitted to attend private dwellings and currently their only option is to meet at local coffee shops. This is proving unsatisfactory by not offering the clients appropriate confidentiality and a level of security should a client have an episode.
The concept of “The Hub” requires the ability to develop a commercial coffee shop so location is important, good public transport and car access is essential and sufficient room to provide administration for RPA PSP, other NFP Police related organisations and clinical services to support PSP.
Another aspect of, “The Hub” is to include a Police and Citizens Youth Club (PCYC) in the building. Apart from the obvious advantages in the Youth space, a PCYC Gymnasium could also help fund the operation of “The Hub”.
Allegedly many Gyms, now extremely popular with younger adults, are operated by Bikie Gangs (OMG’s). The operations of PCYC in the youth field are not compromised by the operation of the facility as a commercial Gymnasium, additionally many Police and other Emergency Service members would be more comfortable using a PCYC Gym than some of the alternative venues. Not having a member of an OMG working out beside you would be an attraction to many.
The proximity of the Gym to the PSP services will also provide the capacity for some clients to combine their gymnasium programs for the health of their body with the work on their mental health.
Bringing these organizations together will have the bonus of improving their capacity to perform their various NFP functions and also add to the anonymity of current and ex- members going to the facility to seek help or undergo treatment.
The facility has also the capacity to provide opportunities for Volunteer work which may assist some of the PSP Clients.
It will also allow for easier access to these organizations by VicPol and the Government.
The recommendation is to establish a Pilot facility so that operational mattes can be addressed and sorted. It is recommended that a Board of Directors be established to manage the facility that initially includes Police and Government representatives together with a Chair and others drawn from the broader community with commercial experience.
The whole operation would need seed funding and the application of some resources however once established the “The Hub” would be self-funding.
As the development of this concept achieves identified targets, so the program can be replicated across the State with the critical proviso of the establishment of a Community Board to operate each Hub independently. There is an important role for Local Government in the program to also provide resource support.
The initial Board would assume responsible for the overall coordination, development of the program and manage Operational standards and fiscal responsibility, coordinating all establishments and facilities operating under the banner of “The Hub”.
Ivan W.Ray Hon Secretary
Community Advocacy Alliance