Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bullying, racism and sexism claims rock WA police

A KEY unit of WA Police is in turmoil after 11 workers accused three of their superiors of systemic bullying.

The present and former staff documented serious allegations stretching over two years, including inappropriate touching, lewd sexual remarks, anti-gay sentiment and racism against one woman boss.

But a spokeswoman for Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said a secret investigation into the allegations had cleared the superiors and found the accusations, outlined in a confidential 39-page document, were possibly "vexatious and mischievous".

The complaints, lodged by a third of the unit's workforce allege bullying, including verbal abuse and public beratings by a male boss, as well as unjustified criticism and claims of "impossible deadlines" and "insufficient time frames" to complete work.

One of the female superiors was accused of inappropriate sexual conduct towards a male employee, gay discrimination and improper racial comments. The allegations included she:

1. Instructed another worker not to hire a homosexual because, having worked with gays before, she found them "precious".

2. She was wearing a Looney Tunes Tweety Bird T-shirt when "she pulled the shirt from her body at the nipple area and lent forward moving the shirt and making tweeting sounds".

3. She groped her breasts through her clothing in the office and inappropriately drew attention to her breasts by picking up a toy spider from a complainant's desk and asking if it looked good on her chest.

4. She massaged a male worker's shoulders when he had asked her not to.

Staff alleged the same woman boss made comments with racist connotations during the organisation of an event in March.

The grievance states that: "(She) advised (three employees) that Mirrabooka is where 'all those people with colourful scarfs on their head live'." The employees understood the "scarfs" to mean head scarfs worn by Islamic women.

And it was claimed she "made a point of telling the recruits standing out the front to watch her car 'because of the area we're in', informed us that she would have to lock her doors when driving through the area to get to the venue", and said she would never employ someone from Mirrabooka.

Five employees who were not part of the action claimed to have either witnessed bullying of the complainants, the effects of the bullying or were concerned about the level of bullying in the workplace.

For legal reasons, The Sunday Times has not named the three superiors at the centre of the allegations, or the police unit they work for. WA Police commissioned private investigation firm Australia Wide Investigations to conduct an independent probe into the allegations.

Its report was forwarded to the force's human resources department two Fridays ago.

The Commissioner's spokeswoman confirmed the force had received the report on Tuesday and was considering its findings.

She said she had been advised that the report found that none of the accused officers "acted in a manner that contravenes any legislative or regulatory requirement in respect of their management practices".

And she said the investigator found on allegations of "inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature" that there was "insufficient evidence to conclude that any officer had acted in a manner alleged and it is possible that these allegations are vexatious and mischievous".

She said two employees had withdrawn their complaints and an assessment showed there was insufficient cause to progress the matters raised against one of the managers.

She said the report would not be made public.


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