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 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 sadly paid the ultimate price 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.