Police bullying complaint allegedly dismissed as ‘lesbian drama'

by Chloe Taylor09 Dec 2015
The Victoria Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) is due to publish a landmark report today, which will expose details of an inquiry into bullying and harassment within Victoria Police.

The inquiry – which was announced by former chief commissioner Ken Lay last year – involved the surveying of 5,000 current and former police officers about sexual harassment and bullying within the force, and 150 interviews.

As the release of the information looms, a former senior constable for Victoria Police has alleged that homophobic bullying drove her out of the force.

Speaking to ABC’s 7.30 program, Nicki Lewis claimed she had suffered intimidation and threats of violence while working in regional Victoria, and also made allegations that male police acted in a “predatory” way towards female officers.

Lewis claimed that when she complained to a colleague about the bullying she was experiencing, he dismissed it as “lesbian drama”.

“That sort of homophobic attitude is common,” she said.

“I did live for the job… to be stripped of what is most important to you has been devastating.

“I've lost everything as a consequence of this workplace bullying.”

She explained that when the bullying reached its worst, many of her colleagues shunned her; one of her co-workers spread a rumour that Lewis had a sexually transmitted disease and warned others not to touch Lewis’ belongings.

Lewis also told the ABC that one of her co-workers offered to “taser, baton or shoot” her for another colleague.

“In the end it just escalates to the point where you ... go into work and your heart rate is through the roof and there is nothing you can do to calm yourself down,” she said.

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  • by Bernie Althofer 15/12/2015 12:06:09 PM

    Policing organisations have over the years been subjected to various Commissions of Inquiries, internal reviews and investigations relating to counterproductive workplace behaviours such as bullying, harassment and sexual harassment. At the same time, a number of other organisations such as Ambulance Services and even the medical profession have been subjected to reviews about specific allegations of bullying and sexual harassment.

    Internal audits, reviews and assessments may have also been conducted in relation to the implementation of various policies and procedures, and at the same time, 'organisational health surveys' have been conducted.

    The existence of the numerous reports related to organisational performance can provide for some interesting reading, and in some cases, could provide claimants with additional supporting information if they can identify patterns of behaviour relating to breaches of health and safety, particularly where issues such as bullying have been identified and not 'apparently acted upon'.

    It does seem that no matter 'how trivial' an allegation may appear to some, the nature of the conduct and the allegations should be fully investigated. It also seems that whilst some reports may be extensive, organisations need to conduct an analysis of such reports (even if the report is about another organisation) to determine the relevance and likelihood of similar incidents occurring in their organisation.

    It does seem from the numerous comments being made across a range of forums that internal audit and reviews processes should at least be examining the level of exposure that may exist particularly in relation to bullying and harassment. In particular, it does appear that there are some concerns that not all incidents or even allegations are being reported formally. In some cases, advice may be sought from support personnel regarding reporting and resolution options, and then the target deciding not to pursue the matter.

    When allegations are dismissed or not investigated, subsequent investigations into the allegation and the non investigation often result in adverse findings or comments being made about a broader range of people, systems and processes. Some managers and supervisors may lack the skills required to conduct an investigation into issues of bullying and harassment and given the increased likelihood that more complaints may be made, organisations need to ensure that those who may be required to investigate such matters, receive appropriate training. Alternatively, the organisation may have a reporting process that means an independent unit or body conducts the investigation.

    Much and all some managers or supervisors may find investigating complaints unpalatable, it does seem that dismissing such complaints or allegations can lead to adverse criticism. Sometimes a manager or supervisor will have to undertake investigations as part of their job.


    Treat any and all allegations seriously
    Treat all parties with respect and dignity
    Investigate sooner rather than later
    Be impartial and non-judgemental
    If you don't know what to do, seek advice
    Read your organisational policy and procedure
    Understand your roles and responsibilities in relation to complaints
    Be professional

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