Sunday, December 12, 2010

Documents reveal bullying, corruption, discrimination, in WA Police

No wonder they are deeply unpopular in their community

ONE in five police officers who quit the WA force in the past two years say they were bullied, while one in 10 saw improper, illegal or corrupt behaviour within the ranks.

Exit questionnaires obtained by The Sunday Times under Freedom of Information laws also revealed one in 10 departing officers and staff reported sexual or racial harassment or discrimination from their supervisors or colleagues. A third said the force was plagued by negative morale. And a quarter said it was difficult to balance the job with family obligations.

The documents, which included 125 exit questionnaires filled out by police who left the force in 2009 up to the end of September this year, also show nearly a third quit for better paying jobs.

One departing officer said he suffered "constant bullying on racist grounds" from his senior officer. The policeman said he had also seen corruption and knew of colleagues who carried out second jobs while at work and used police vehicles for private use.

Another officer wrote: "There have been many instances over the years I have seen things occur which have been corrupt and illegal."

A third departing officer said he had seen officers commit assaults, steal and breach traffic rules, while a fourth wrote he had seen "use of excessive force ... threats, intimidation, inducement".

The exit questionnaires also revealed:

* Almost 20 per cent of departing officers and staff said WA Police did not have a positive culture or healthy work environment.

* More than a third said the service's systems and processes were inefficient

* A quarter said it did not provide proper training and development

* One in five said pay was inadequate

* Almost 40 per cent said the service did not offer promotion and career development opportunities

* Sixteen per cent said they were unsatisfied with the job

* Thirteen per cent said they would never work for WA Police again.

Opposition police spokeswoman Margaret Quirk said the corruption, bullying and harassment figures suggest police aren't doing enough to eliminate these unsatisfactory practices. "The Police Minister will duck for cover and say these are operational matters. Certainly in all other workplaces these things are not only discouraged but active steps are taken to eliminate them," she said.

Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said every report of corruption or misconduct was investigated. But he said: "We need to be careful in concluding that a claim necessarily translates to an event. I notice only 12 officers (from 125 exit questionnaires) have claimed this is a concern."

Mr O'Callaghan said police were encouraged to report sexual harassment and discrimination, and while several cases had been lodged "none have been upheld by the Equal Opportunity Commission in the past two years.

"While we take exit interview information seriously, some officers leaving the agency make claims based on localised issues which cannot be extrapolated to mean the whole of the Western Australia police ... an officer's perception of morale is based on their experience in their immediate environment and cannot be representative of the whole of the force." "Notwithstanding, the exit interview provides sufficient demographic information for us to monitor trends and issues."

Police Minister Rob Johnson said: "In any workplace you will find some employees who are unhappy in their current environment for a number of reasons, particularly in an organisation as large as WA Police. "I understand that out of all of the exit surveys received by WA Police, only a small percentage of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with their time in the service.

"Policing is not an easy job and by no means a job for everyone. However, in my regular travels to police stations around the state, I've only received positive feedback from police officers, who acknowledge that while the job is challenging, they thoroughly enjoy carrying out the duties they perform to protect the community.

"As for the levels of remuneration, there will always be a better-paying job no matter what your profession is. Of course, I'd like to see police officers paid more, but there is a limit to what the state can afford and what is reasonable."

Not every officer who left the force completed an exit questionnaire, and The Sunday Times used only fully completed surveys to compile the figures.


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