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?