Generic Queensland Police Service.
Generic Queensland Police Service.

Call for senior cops to be removed following allegations

RESIDENTS and police officers alike are calling on the Queensland Police Service to remove two senior officers stationed in an outback town following allegations ranging from threats to locals to workplace bullying.

A nine-page complaint letter dated May 26 and addressed to the Mt Isa Police District Superintendent, on behalf "of a number of current and former officers from (the) Station," reveals at least five police employees are on leave or have transferred as a result of alleged workplace bullying in the small station.

At least two experienced officers once considered committing suicide while posted to the station, it has been alleged.

The Courier Mail has chosen to not name the small town or any of the officers involved.

The accusations are one of many in an integrity scandal that has rocked the country town station.

The explosive complaint letter, sent to the Mt Isa Superintendent and Ethical Standards Command by Justice4Worker's Kate Rasmussen, outlines claims of public drunkenness, bullying, racial vilification, failure to adhere to protocols for fraudulent drug testing and outrageous conduct.



The letter alleges that in April a senior officer left two juvenile prisoners unattended in the watch house, used his own vehicle to chase a wanted juvenile offender through the bush and had his own pet dog, "known to be vicious", on a lead at the rear of the property "where the juvenile could possibly decamp."

Ms Rasmussen, a former police officer-turned-workplace advocate, states in the complaint the dog should not be taken as a "use of force option", when the officer is not a trained dog handler and the dog is not a police dog.

It goes on to allege that the same dog bit an on-duty police officer on May 4.

Bond University Associate Professor in Criminology and former police officer, Terry Goldsworthy, said if there were prisoners in the watch house, someone should remain with them at all times.

"Out of the death in custody reports over the past 30 years, that's rule number one," he said.

"Not only for their safety, but prevention of escape."




File photo: There is unrest in an outback town with many residents and police officers wanting some senior officers investigated. Picture: Richard Walker/AAP
File photo: There is unrest in an outback town with many residents and police officers wanting some senior officers investigated. Picture: Richard Walker/AAP

It is further alleged the same senior officer told a group of locals their random breath tests (RBT) had returned a positive result for drugs so they were taken for blood tests.

This claim was supported by a written complaint to the town's mayor, obtained by the Courier Mail, by a local resident who alleges the senior officer had stopped him for an RBT on June 27.

Bill Potts president of the Queensland Law Association, said the handheld devices used in Queensland for random breath tests could only detect alcohol levels.

"The taking of blood is more accurate for obvious reasons," he said.

"As far as I know, the alcolmeters don't detect drugs."

He said random drug tests were usually done via mouth swab.

"But even if a positive result was not returned via the tests, an officer may still be able to order a person to obtain a blood test if they had reasonable suspicions due to the manner of driving," he said.

"Or if indicia showed, including slurring words, red eyes, being unable to walk."



File photo: An example of a drug test kit similar to ones used in Queensland by the police for random drug testing. Picture: Richard Jupe
File photo: An example of a drug test kit similar to ones used in Queensland by the police for random drug testing. Picture: Richard Jupe



At least two locals have also previously lodged complaints about a different senior officer, with the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC).

One of the complaints claimed one senior officer racially abused and threatened to throw a family member of one his employees "over the bridge," while at a local pub in December, 2017.

A December 2018 letter, signed by Superintendent Glen E. Pointing, informed the complainant the CCC referred the complaint to the Ethical Standards Command, which in turn referred the matter to the QPS State Discipline Command.

Mr Pointing's letter states "a disciplinary sanction suitable to address the seriousness of the conduct substantiated" was imposed, but it does not specify what type of disciplinary action was taken.

The same senior officer was also accused, on a separate occasion, of encouraging another officer and a local man to fight at a pub after the local started talking to a woman sitting at a table with the two officers.

A QPS spokeswoman confirmed a number of complaints had been received against the senior officer over different allegations stemming from December 2017.

"These were investigated by a senior officer from the Northern Region which resulted in two disciplinary findings and subsequent disciplinary action imposed against the officer," she said.


Community meetings


The spokeswoman also said two community meetings were held in 2018 between the Mt Isa District Officer, residents, the mayor and councillors to address community concerns.

"There is ongoing commitment for support and dialogue between stakeholders," she said.

One resident, who did not want to be named, told the Courier Mail the meetings were called by locals due to the alleged treatment of some residents by two of the police officers.

"They are crossing so many boundaries," she said.

"I understand police … they've got to do their job, but I've just never seen coppers like this.

"(Name) in particular, that authority and power has gone to his head.

"We want them both removed."

A number of other locals, who also asked to not be named, said they felt the police, in general, were "crossing so many boundaries."




One woman said many community members felt a senior officer was using an "excessive use of power."

The QPS spokeswoman said she could not answer specific questions about any of the allegations.

"These have been investigated and resolved via the QPS Complaints and Resolution Policy," she said.

The spokeswoman said there were several open complaints concerning the conduct of several officers from the station.

"These matters have been reported to the Ethical Standards Command (ESC)," she said.

"The Crime and Corruption Commission provides independent oversight.

"As these are ongoing investigations, we are unable to comment further at this time."




In the detailed complaint letter, Ms Rasmussen also claims a number of officers had reported alleged misconduct or bullying to district management but felt their concerns were not taken seriously.

Some of the other officers familiar with the situation, none of who want to be named for fear of reprisal, told the Courier Mai l they are concerned that someone will end up hurt.

"I'm worried someone is going to get hurt, because nothing has been done," one officer said.

"I'm aware that management know about it. Mt Isa are aware of it, yet the problems are still going on.

"I've seen other police officers stood down for much less."

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