Bullying ‘rife’ among police

More police and emergency service workers said they were bullied at work in the past year than any other public sector employees.

Almost a fifth of more than 9000 police and emergency services workers who responded to the People Matters Survey – released last month by the Victorian Public Sector Commission – said they had been bullied. This figure was the highest of all industries surveyed, with almost half who reported bullying detailing that it involved “exclusion or isolation”.

More than 60 per cent of the emergency services personnel bullied said it was by a manager or supervisor. Only 12.8 per cent responded that they were “satisfied” with how their complaints were handled. This was the lowest of all industries. Further, more than half of respondents said they did not report the bullying to a superior because they believed “there would be negative con[1]sequences for my reputation”.

Emergency services workers also recorded the lowest job satisfaction. In response to the survey, a Victoria Police spokesman said bullying was unacceptable, that all allegations were “taken seriously and addressed”, but that the survey also showed experiences of bullying had declined since 2021.

“Two thirds of those who reported bullying cited this as colleagues being uncivil, such as not listening, rather than behaviour that was threatening or intimidating,” the spokesman said. “We encourage our employees to call out and address inappropriate behaviour if they feel comfortable and safe to do so.”

Melbourne legal firm Arnold Thomas and Becker told the Herald Sun it was fighting more than 20 claims against Victoria Police for internal bullying.

Former cop Matthew Cocks, who is taking the force to court over alleged police torts that forced him out of work, slammed his former employer for “still living in the ’70s” when it came to staff welfare.

According to a writ filed in the County Court, Mr Cocks suffered “severe anxiety and depression” as well as post-traumatic stress as a result of “bullying and harassment” from his superiors. Mr Cocks, who resigned from the force after more than 30 years in 2020, said bullying forced him out of the job.

“I thought I’d take some mental health leave to clear my thoughts and they didn’t let me come back operationally or run a crew when I came back,” he said.

“They were that concerned for my welfare they put me in an office downstairs and no one came to see me.”

Mr Cocks’s lawyer Shalyn Mathew said his detailed allegations appeared to show the culture at Victoria Police was ‘quite rife’ with bullying.

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