Month: August 2016

Shocking Revelations from Force Doctor on Injured Officers

Shocking Revelations from Force Doctor on Injured Officers

Breaking News …

The following emails, released by the Home Office (from a Freedom Of Information request), are between Dr David Bulpitt of Avon and Somerset police and the Home Office. They reveal an insight into his thoughts regarding injured officers. 

bulpitt1_1

ho bulpitt

bulpitt2

This doctor is from the same force as the PCC (Sue Mountstevens) who wrote a letter three years ago, again to the Home Office, complaining that retired injured on duty police officers serve no benefit to the people of Avon and Somerset.

We are deeply concerned and horrified that a doctor who, according to the GMC good medical practice, should show respect, treat patients and colleagues fairly and without discrimination and act with honesty and integrity, could write something with such disregard about his patients – who happen to be injured police officers.

 

it is crazy to have the GMC overseeing the work to the SMP and insisting that the pensioner is our patient and that we must put their interests first?

IODPA are alarmed that a person who is a highly qualified doctor and whom is employed by a police force to take care of the physical and mental health of serving and retired police officers should have such a blatant indifference to his patients.

In our belief he has shown no concern for people who have been medically retired; their lives, physical, psychological, emotional, and social state are cruely dismissed.  

By intentionally dehumanising individuals his paramount fealty seems to be to the force finances.  

An opinion piece on this will follow soon.

Please complete the survey at the bottom of the page – Are force doctors to be trusted?

Do you trust your force medical adviser?

IODPA – Putting you first, when the job has put you last

Ex-Police Constable Archibald

Ex-Police Constable Archibald

“If you want to feel the life and the body of great men who are long gone, go to their tombs or monuments; if you want to understand the real life and the wisdom of great men who are long gone, go to their libraries!”
Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

The Police Pension Scheme has its origins in a scheme introduced by the Metropolitan Police in 1829. Benefits were provided on disablement for London officers “worn out by length of service”. Payment of a pension was discretionary, with limits to payment set in legislation. The pensions reflected the “arduous and hazardous conditions” of police work.

A police officer could gain a maximum pension after 25 years, compared to 45 years under the 1834 civil service scale.

In 1890, the Government promoted a Bill which retained the existing superannuation funds.  A uniform pension scheme for police officers was first established under the Police Pensions Act 1921 and further detailed police pensions regulations, along the current lines of what we have today, were subsequently made under the Police Pensions Act 1948.

On the 21st November 1967 Mr. Ron Lewis (Member for Carlisle) had an exchange in the Commons concerning police injury pensions with Dick Taverne, the then Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department.  The featured image of this blog is a picture of Mr Taverne sat in his personal library.

They discuss the case of an ex-policeman named P.C. Archibald, who had “… been compulsorily retired from the police as a result of injuries sustained in the course of duty in trying to restore order or to arrest criminals”.

How attitudes have changed. Back then they understood that earnings had no relevance to the degree of disablement and that it was important to ensure the “fair and adequate financial provision for police officers who are retired because of disablement as a result of injuries received in the performance of their duties”.

Mr Dick Taverne:
I come to particular examples, including Police Constable Archibald’s case. A police constable like Mr. Archibald who retired after nine years’ service with the degree of disablement of 40 per cent..—. . . [snip. Archibald got an enhanced ill-health pension and an injury award]. . ., his total benefit would be £149 plus £198, or a total of £347 a year, and he would continue to receive this while the degree of disablement persisted, whatever work he took up.

The purpose and intent of the injury Regulations has not changed one iota since PC Archibald’s duty injuries were the subject of Parliamentary discussion. To the Home Office Minister of the day, it was a clear as it could be that there was absolutely no link between what a disabled former officer earned and the level of his injury pension. This is what we in IODPA have been saying for some time, but, so far, scheme managers are refusing to listen. They will, eventually, have to listen when this issue is aired by means of judicial review – and that will not be too far in the future.

We’ll say it again. Reviews where any attention is paid to earnings are unlawful. The medical condition resultant from the duty injury, and whether it has altered so as to improve or worsen an individual’s ability (capacity) to work is the focus, not income.

Here is a link to the full exchange:

http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1967/nov/21/disabled-policemen-superannuation#S5CV0754P0_19671121_HOC_452

DISABLED POLICEMEN (SUPERANNUATION) (Hansard, 21 November 1967)

 

 

 

The Alchemy of Apportioning the same Injury to Itself

The Alchemy of Apportioning the same Injury to Itself

“Only a psychopath would ever think of doing these things, only a psychopath would dream of abusing other people in such a way, only a psychopath would treat people as less than human just for money. The shocking truth is, even though they now have most if not all of the money, they want still more, they want all of the money that you have left in your pockets, they want it all because they have no empathy with other people, with other creatures, they have no feeling for the world which they exploit, they have no love or sense of being or belonging for their souls are dead, dead to all things but greed and a desire to rule over others.”
Arun D. Ellis, Corpalism

In a nutshell, alchemy was a bizarre niche of “chemistry” before the periodic table.  The best-known goals of the alchemists were the transmutation of common metals into iron, gold, booze, and even the elixir of life, by combining the four basic properties (earth, fire, air, and water) with straw and chicken dung in certain ratios.

The topic we are going to cover here is the unlawful way some selected medical practitioners (SMPs) go out of their way to pin other causes onto an on-duty injury just so they can use what is known as ‘apportionment’ to water-down the award.  This is reverse alchemy.  By starting with one single pure nugget of gold the SMP, who ignores the true purpose of apportionment, tries to separate the distinct ingredient into many test-tube silos of chicken dung.

Briefly, if the SMP gives an opinion that there was, deep in the medical history of an individual, some slight indication of an illness or injury that could now be said to have contributed to the disablement, then the degree of disablement will be reduce by some proportion. The fact that the individual was passed as fit to join the police, and served without any difficulty for years is dismissed in favour of a dubious medical opinion that some past event contributed to the on-duty injury.

We have to apologise in advance for the fact that this blog’s subject matter is so impenetrable. IOD pensioners and serving officers injured on duty are being deliberately bamboozled by some HR and SMPs who want to confuse and confound so that they can unlawfully reduce injury pensions or refuse grant of injury awards.

If you want to skip to the nitty-gritty, just read the last paragraph and  see how you can let some experts take on the worry and the fight for justice.

We are not talking about an on-duty shoulder injury and an off-duty ankle injury that both contribute to the degree of disablement.  Such apportionment is legitimate, relatively straight forward and was covered by the Crocker case back in 2003

SWP v Anton (Crocker) paragraph 52
…an injury award should not be paid other than for injury received and earning capacity lost in the execution of the officer’s duty. The assessment process should thus discount the effect of any other factors. It looks for the loss caused by the duty injury and nothing else.

This clearly talks about the on-duty injury received and none other injury defining the loss.  Fair enough. But this isn’t what we are talking about.

No, we are entering the shadows where dark forces reign and the dimly lit souls of SMPs wreak incredible havoc by attributing different causes to account for the on-duty injury and then apportioning the percentage degree of disablement accordingly.

PTSD? You only have it because you witnessed something horrendous when you were 8 years old so that accounts for half of the disablement.  On-duty Cervical spine trauma after a polac?  Now you have lumber disc symptoms that we think can’t have anything to do with the connecting column of 33 individual bones stacked one on top of the other that links the two ends together!

To tackle this subject, let us first look at the judicial review which talks about underlying conditions and causation.

David Walther had to fight for grant of an injury award.  He successfully quashed the refusal for an injury award in his first judicial review (Walther v The Police Medical Appeal Board & Anor [2010] EWHC 3009 (Admin) (23 November 2010)).  The judge sent Walther’s application for an injury award back to a selected medical practitioner for reconsideration.  Upon reconsideration the SMP again refused an award but this was overturned at the police medical appeals board.  The Met wasn’t happy with this and took the PMAB decision to appeal  (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis v The Police Medical Appeal Board [2013] EWHC 1203 (Admin) (17 May 2013)).  The argument of the Met was that David Walther should not have an injury pension as he would had eventually become disabled anyway, notwithstanding that he was carrying out full operational duties at the time a 15 stone officer jumped on him during officer safety training .  Not surprisingly, for a second time a judge decided in favour of Walther.

The whole dispute centred on a medical opinion of the possibility of David Walther’s predisposition for lumbar disc degeneration. A person has five lumber vertebrae in their spine.  Of these five, David Walther suffered from“degenerative disc changes of the L4/5 and L5/S1 discs” and prominent disc bulges at T12/4, L4/5 and L5/S1.

In this case the court gave further guidance on the assessment of police injury awards where an underlying degenerative condition has been affected by an injury sustained whilst on duty.

It was decided that acceleration or aggravation is not appropriate if there is a disablement which is permanent, and if the injury sustained on duty caused or substantially contributed to the disablement.

This nicely takes us into the judgement of Doubtfire and Williams.  In this case it was found that the SMP asked the wrong question namely whether “workplace events” might have led to Social Phobia.

The correct question was whether the permanent disablement had been caused by an injury in the execution of duty.

Doubtfire & Anor 2009 Paragraph 34
The questions that have to be answered clearly distinguish between (1) whether the officer concerned is (a) disabled and (b) likely to be permanently disabled (which I refer to hereafter as “the disablement questions”) and (2) whether the disablement in question is the result of an injury received in the execution of duty (which I refer to hereafter as “the causation question”). None of them requires the SMP or Board concerned to diagnose the infirmity or injury concerned much less do the regulations make any such diagnosis final. It is only the decisions (1) whether the officer concerned is (a) disabled and (b) likely to be permanently disabled and (2) whether the disablement in question is the result of an injury received in the execution of duty that are final.

So the question in Walther’s case wasn’t whether the lumber disc T12/4  (or which of the five) was damaged in safety training – the correct question was whether the disablement in question is the result of an injury received in the execution of duty.  The disablement was a undisputed fact that his spine was damaged and the on-duty injury was the proverbial ‘final straw’ that led to the permanency.

Justice Collins, in Walther II, mentions in his summing-up that Regulation 37 provides for re-assessment of injury pensions and the judge continues by saying that there is the opportunity for a later assessment as to whether the underlying condition had overtaken any disablement resulting from the injury.  His stance was that it follows that an injury award should be granted to an officer who may become disabled anyway in the future as a review enables the rebalancing of what is primacy reason for the loss of earning capacity.

Walther II 2013 Paragraph 15.
As I have already said, in my view Regulation 37 does enable a review and a reduction in the pension awarded to the former officer if the progress of an underlying medical condition means that the duty injury is not still an operative cause of any reduction in the former officer’s earning capacity.

Neither of the Walther cases touched on the reviews in a way which is helpful.  Of course, if the disabling effects of the recorded duty injury or injuries have lessened, but the individual is still unable to work because of some underlying medical condition, then the SMP will have to make a very considered decision.

The important thing here is to relate it to the decision that is sovereign concerning Regulation 37 heard in the Court of Appeal, Metropolitan Police Authority v Laws & Anor [2010] EWCA Civ 1099 (13 October 2010).  This held that the SMP was not entitled when conducting a review under Regulation 37 to re-open clinical judgements as to causation or apportionment made in earlier decisions .

Even NAMF accepts this is verboten post Walther.  In their complexly titled document “Procedural Guidance Notes for Assessing and Re-assessing the Degree of Disablement as a Result of an Injury Received in the Execution of Police Duties” , section 4.5.3 states:

It should be noted that apportionment can only be considered at a reassessment if it had been applied at the initial assessment and any subsequent reassessments. The SMP cannot start from scratch by including apportionment, if not previously applied.

Therefore, in relation to Walther II, the underlying condition would have to exist and be identified at the initial granting of the award for it to be ever be decreed that it has overtaken the on-duty injury.  It also is reliant on the duty injury no longer being an operative cause of the disablement – on other words, the see-saw on the duty side has gone down (condition improved) and the opposing side gone up (condition deteriorated).

Now if someone has a degree of disability of 100% but some residue of underlying non-duty injuries, it is nonsense on steroids to ever claim that the duty injury has been overtaken when the duty injury is still just as symptomatic.  For this to happen the person would have to have a degree of disablement of 201% – 100% for the injury and 101% for the worsening underlying condition.  Even in this sinkhole example of financial wizardry the underlying condition has overtaken the on-duty condition by a single percent – this is nowhere near substantial.

Keeping with the theme of black magic, this sort of numerical alchemy is just as great a travesty of making things from nothing than the witches’ brew of derivatives, swaps and collateralised subprime junk that caused the 2008 financial crisis.

In the case of David Walther, the underlying condition did not mean he received a 20% degree of disablement for the duty injury of a single vertebrae and then apportionment of 20% to each of the remaining four discs.  In other words, he wasn’t denied 80% of his award.  This would be ridiculous.

But the real horror is the current trend of SMP necromancy.   Some of these so-called doctors are using the argument of underlying conditions to slide in the addition of one more incredibly seductive apportionments when they grant the award.  They know the Walther judgement stops them from denying the award flat, so to please their HR buddies they load the dice.

To misquote Warren Buffet these are “medical weapons of mass destruction.” Forensically examine all the medical history from birth to identify a vague and invented co-morbidity that previously had no symptoms whatsoever, spew this potion of apportionment all over the calculation of degree of disablement, and hey presto: a band one.   With the added bonus that the apportionment can be used to never allow an increase to a higher band if ever reviewed.

A traumatic childhood, cancer diagnosis, bereavement, sudden illness, an accident or an assault, or even a natural disaster can be emotionally devastating- these are all traumatic experiences which can upset and distress us. They arouse powerful and disturbing feelings in us which usually settle in time, without any professional help.

The word “trauma” is derived from a Greek word, which means “to wound” or “to pierce.” It is most often used to describe any sudden physical injury.  The intensity or violence of the wound is such that the consequences are long-lasting.  Just as the body can sustain a physical trauma that can devastate its defences, so too, can psychological trauma overwhelm one’s normal coping mechanisms indelibly into an illness that manifests as post traumatic stress disorder with eventual transition to an enduring personality change.  When that traumatic incident is on-duty and results in a police officer being permanently disabled from performing the full role of a police officer then they become entitled to an injury award.

It is now becoming more common for selected medical practitioners to ‘apportion’ PTSD.

Yes, you heard that right.

They are now claiming that being permanently disabled with severe PTSD – caused on duty  – is the same as the underlying lumber disc degeneration condition in Walther; blatantly ignoring the Doubtfire ruling that the disability has primacy over the diagnosis; ignoring the definition in Crocker that defines apportionment for another injury, and apportioning the same injury based on the fact the person would have become mentally unwell anyway – even though no previous mental illness existed.

Have you had any difficult personal personal trauma in the past two decades and gone to see your GP about it?  Well now, even though you retired this year with PTSD from a horrific incident 2 years ago and you are totally disabled from working ever again, the SMP will now say 49% of your condition is due to your police service and 51% because of ‘that other issue that you took 4 weeks off work for back in 2003‘.  You are a band two.  And you are too bewidlered and poorly to argue the contrary.

The planets will be forcibly aligned by HR and the SMP at any future review and you can bet that the ‘other condition’ will eat further into the apportionment and, even without any improvement or ability to earn, a reduction to band one will be on the cards.

Why are they doing this when the Regulations or case-law do not allow for such a thing?

We come full circle back to NAMF and their  February 2014 procedural guidance notes:

Section 4.5
More than one injury within the same condition causing loss of earnings capacity – Apportionment may also be appropriate where there is no other medical condition, as mentioned above, but where it is found that there has been more than one injury involved which causes loss of earning capacity and where not all the injuries were received in the execution of duty. In such a case the percentage of degree of disablement should be apportioned, applying the same proportion that the injury or injuries in the execution of duty have contributed to the loss of earning capacity as a result of the disablement.

The Plain English Campaign would have a field day with that load of gibberish. Notice the nonsensical weasel words of trying to invent a new concept of injuries with the same ‘condition’.  ‘Conditions’ within a ‘single injury’ is purely a synthetic position that is created artificially.  It is nothing but alchemy, simulating something out of nothing – just in the same manner that the derivatives of the last financial crash, like collateral debt obligations, were smoke and mirrors .

The relationship to the injury and the condition is in fact one to one.  They are one and the same – the condition is the injury; is the disability.  And the Doubtfire case confirms the question for the SMP is all about the disability, not the diagnosis. Further, the Walther case confirms underlying (separate) injuries can not be apportioned when the  injury sustained on duty caused or substantially contributed to the disablement  But SMPs trained by NAMF now use this financial instrument to corrupt the rightful award.

But who is there to help bring this abuse of the Regulations to a halt? It is an error to think NAMF, HR professionals and SMPs regulate themselves.  The field of social psychology provides a possible answer. In his classic 1972 book, “Groupthink, ” Irving L Janis, the Yale psychologist, explained how panels of so-called experts could make colossal mistakes. People on these panels, he said, are forever worrying about their personal relevance and effectiveness, and feel that if they deviate too far from the consensus, they will compromise their career and derail their gravy-train.

Throw into the mix malevolence, more greed, self-interest and a manic ‘zeal to reduce the financial pressure to the public purse’ (what better a thing for an ambitious HR manager to put on their LinkedIn CV in times of austerity) and you have a maelstrom swirling together in a toxic cauldron of incompetence.

Any IOD pensioner, or serving officer who sees the word ‘apportionment’ used by a SMP should get in touch with IODPA, who have excellent solicitors and a formidable Queens Counsel who can take up any cases of injury pension maladministration.

 

Is Your Data Safe in Police Hands?

Is Your Data Safe in Police Hands?

“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.”
George Bernard Shaw

 
Our officers stand on the thin blue line ready to protect their community. In truth, quite often that thin blue line is a battle line we have drawn between law abiding citizens and the criminals who would harm them.

When the concept of a uniformed police force was first championed by Sir Robert Peel in London in the early 1800s, he was met with much resistance due to fears of what would essentially be a standing army within the city; comparisons were made to police as a government-sanctioned occupying force. The problem of how to enforce laws while preserving rights is not at all new.

Those police officers sweating it out on the front line: that’s where the concept of Guardian Policing comes in. But the Guardians of these Guardians are failing the thin blue line.

Those behind the scenes are not competent custodians of the data they hold on both those who serve the public nor those that have been medically retired – even victims are being let down by shockingly lackadaisical data protection procedures.

The management of personal data within police forces has become a travesty and police and civilian senior management are acting like an occupying army in defence mode and under siege. Whilst they disingenuously proclaim their conduct is correct, in reality rights and liberties are definitely not being preserved.

We at IODPA have been saying that Police Pension authorities have no lawful and legitimate reason to demand full disclosure of medical records from birth when they decide to review an injury award.

Put the question of the legality to retain personal sensitive data aside momentarily and stop to think for a second … if you are a medically retired officer with an injury award, do you think that your personal sensitive data is in good hands? Do you really think it is safe for them to hold your full medical records for eternity – to dip into them whenever they like, by whomever they like?

Think again. In July 2016 Big Brother Watch published a report entitled, ‘Safe in Police Hands’. The subtitle of the report is ‘How Police Forces suffer 10 data breaches every week and still want more of your data’.

Safe-in-Police-Hands

Everything contained with this report is relevant to your confidential data retained when you, as a police officer, was medically retired. Police forces do not treat your data with extra care just because you used to serve as a police officer. The truth is quite the opposite. You are more likely to be a potential victim of a data protection breach compared to a member of the public, for they definitely have your data – others become victims as and when they come into police contact.

Often they will have lost your data but they will claim they haven’t. They will cherry-pick and redact information when supposedly complying with a subject access request under the Data Protection Act. Given your own knowledge of your former employer, do you think they have the capacity to be prepared to conceal, remove or destroy incriminating evidence of injustice you suffered but otherwise, until asking for your data, had no physical proof?

They are quick to deny they breach data protection protocols. The numbers say differently:

Table 1. 1st June 2011 – 31st December 2015

No. Police Force Number of Data Breaches
1 West Midlands 488
2 Surrey Police 202
3 Humberside Police 168
4 Avon and Somerset 163
5 Greater Manchester 100
6 North Yorkshire 98
7 Cheshire Constabulary 85
8 Dorset Police 81
8 Kent Police 81
9 Merseyside Police 77
10 West Mercia 73

Just this week there have been major breaches of personal data involving involving not only GMP but the supposed guardian of the police complaints system in England and Wales, the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

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The quote from the victim’s solicitor is very revealing. Showing the default position of defensiveness-  never to admit there’s been a problem unless they’ve been forced by an external agency to come clean.

He added GMP had initially refused to accept it had done anything wrong and its internal investigation concluded no officer had infringed the police code of conduct.

If they never accept they are wrong are the self-reported figures given to answer Big Brother Watch’s Freedom of Information request actually accurate or it is an under-representation of the true number of breaches?

What is the point of the College of Policing data protection principles if they can’t even ‘police’ themselves?

 

Insult To Injury and A Strain on the System

Insult To Injury and A Strain on the System

This is an article that appeared in the 16th October 1998 edition of Police Review magazine.

strainonthesystem
Article thumbnail image only, will be too pixelated to read if enlarged. Full transcript below

It is reprinted here with the blessing of its author.  Unfortunately things have not changed. In fact it has become worse.  Welfare units in the UK have been disbanded and scandalously six months plus (often now counted in years) on sick leave with no contact is nowadays par for the course, rather than unusual.

Below the article is a recent ABC documentary.  Although this program was broadcasted in Australia (Insult to Injury, reported by Quentin McDermott and presented by Sarah Ferguson, aired on Monday 1st of August at 8.30pm) exactly the same has happened in the UK for at least the past 20 years as the Police Review article demonstrates.

Strain on the System?

Enough is said in the national press  about the wasted millions through ill- health pensions. I will receive almost £750,OOO in pension before I die, in my opinion, because the Met didn’t want to  spend one year’s worth of salary counselling.  I was medically retired from the service when I had at least 20 years left to complete. The reason for this was that I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder which was brought on by an attack on me while on duty as a PC.

More disturbing for me was the fact that I wasn’t elderly, I wasn’t lazy or a malingerer, and I wasn’t one of those people that the service was ‘looking for a reason to get rid of’. Far from it — my performance appraisals were always excellent and my superintendent had described me as ‘one of the best operational prospects I have seen’.

Six months before my ill-health retirement, I had taken and passed the sergeants’ promotion exam, I was a control-room trained supervisor, and a police driver who had obtained the best student and driver awards on my course. I had also been accepted for the third stage of the accelerated promotion selection process.

This hardly sounds like the kind of officer that the service would be in a hurry to get rid of — but that is exactly what it did. Following my attendance at an incident very similar to the one where I was attacked a few years previously, I met with a service welfare officer. Within three meetings my career had ended.

Having lost trust in the police welfare system in 1993 when I appealed for help with psychological problem; (in the middle of counselling I was told that I was to be medically retired and all police counselling support was being withdrawn), it was with reluctance that I approached the welfare department again in 1996.

In 1993, I had managed to stay in the service after fighting the decision to retire me. The service’s withdrawal of support came at a particularly difficult time — just as I had told the service’s psychiatrist that my young niece, who was terminally ill, had maybe six months to live.

In 1996, the welfare officer told me there was no support for someone who had the long- term symptoms of PTSD. I was told there were people who could debrief immediately after an incident, but not after the illness had gone untreated for some time, as mine had. The delay in seeking help was due to a lack of awareness of what had caused the symptoms that I was experiencing.

The welfare officer told me she would speak to the chief medical officer and meet me again to tell me what options were available to me. The answer came two weeks later — I was either to stay in the service and see my GP for help or resign. The Met had no counsellors available for my kind of problem, I was told, and all the resources that had existed were no longer available to me. The meeting lasted maybe 10 minutes.

I could not carry on without treatment and so I had no option but to see the chief medical officer regarding a medical retirement.

During September 1996, I went sick. I saw the chief medical officer for an interview which lasted no more than five minutes. I was told to go home and await the decision regarding my medical retirement and whether or not an injury award would be made. After all, PTSD is all in the mind; I didn’t have anything visibly wrong with me. I was then left sitting at home for six months, without once being contacted by any welfare personnel or management from my division. The first time I was contacted was by my chief superintendent who told me that I had been granted a 15 per cent injury award. I had 30 days left to serve before my medical retirement. I appealed this ridiculously low amount. Of course, it took a considerable amount of time, and I remained living on a pension equal to half of what my salary had been. This lasted nine months. Eventually, I had a two-hour interview with a Home Office-appointed consultant psychiatrist, and my injury percentage was increased to 65 per cent. Having seen my GP as recommended by the service welfare, I waited 18 months to be referred via the local hospital’s psychiatric unit to a psychologist. After two consultation sessions, I was told that I needed about 50 sessions of counselling, Or one year’s worth.

The NHS only provide six sessions free of charge; the others would cost me a I am now in a situation whereby I am unable to work, unable to get counselling and have a criminal injuries claim outstanding which is in its fifth year of appeal. It dismays me that having been told by a clinical psychologist that after one year I would be better and able to return to work, the service would not invest that time and money in me. I have been paid the equivalent of my police officer’s wages for not working (actually, slightly more because of the injury percentage) but all the thousands of pounds spent on my training has been wasted. Instead of investing in one year’s salary – and the salary of a psychologist or even private sessions at £60 a week for a year to enable me to do the next 20 years Of service – all my training, knowledge and experience has been thrown away. I am sure I am not the only one.

Insult to Injury

 

Transcript

SARAH FERGUSON: Good evening and welcome to Four Corners.

Tonight the scandalous treatment of police suffering from post traumatic stress after exposure to violence and trauma.

Despite advances in the treatment of PTSD in the military, former policemen say they’ve been abandoned when they were at their most vulnerable.

It’s estimated 1 in 5 police officers either have or are at risk of developing PTSD – making them potentially a danger to themselves and to the public they serve.

In Victoria alone 35 serving policemen and women have committed suicide since 1995, including 4 this year.

In tonight’s program police from three states describe how their claims were treated with suspicion and how they were scrutinized in ways that made them feel like criminals. In some cases this included being secretly filmed by insurance investigators.

Quentin McDermott reports.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT, REPORTER: Every morning Brendon Bullock wakes from his nightly terrors and begins his daily battle to survive.

BRENDON BULLOCK, RETIRED NSW POLICEMAN: I suffer from intrusive nightmares at night, I suffer from insomnia, I can’t sleep unless I’m medicated.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: At dawn he’s greeted by his loyal companion, Boss, who serves as a reminder of the man he used to be.

BRENDON BULLOCK, RETIRED NSW POLICEMAN: The Staffordshire bull terrier breed is renowned for being bold, fearless and totally reliable, and much like I once was.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Brendon starts his day with two hundred milligrams of anti-depressants.

This decorated former New South Wales police officer is strong on the outside but shattered on the inside.

BRENDON BULLOCK: From the onset of my career I was exposed to extreme acts of violence, suicides and homicides. These traumatic incidents that I witnessed, I shut away in my subconscious mind.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Now, severely disabled by post traumatic stress disorder, it’s a battle just to get out of the house.Even driving to the shops is a major mental challenge.

BRENDON BULLOCK: I’m very hyper-vigilant. Um I’m constantly aware of my surroundings and who is around me at the time. I am constantly on the lookout for people following me I’m very apprehensive about being in public places. They are environments that I consider myself when in them to be vulnerable. It’s in my nature to um be constantly on the lookout for danger.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: It was a very different Brendon Bullock who graduated from Goulburn police academy in 1999.

BRUCE BULLOCK, BRENDON’S FATHER:The graduation ceremony at Goulburn way back then was something very special. Um from a, from a dad’s point of view I was really pleased for him and proud of what he’d been able to achieve, and ah get to a point of a goal that he’d had for quite some years prior to that.

BRENDON BULLOCK: For me the job was very satisfying. It gave me an opportunity to help people, to make a difference in someone’s life, er, to investigate crime, and to bring perpetrators to justice.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Brendan was a detective in the Terrorism Investigations Squad and surveilled organised crime figures for the Australian Crime Commission.As a front line officer he had death threats, and was violently assaulted.He attended murders, suicides and horrific traffic accidents.Four years into the job, it started getting to him – but he couldn’t admit it.

BRENDON BULLOCK: I was supposed to be a police officer. I was supposed to be able to deal with trauma, um, process it, and move on.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: So is there a stigma attached to putting your hand up and saying, I need help?

BRENDON BULLOCK : I don’t think the culture of the New South Wales Police Force allows their members to have the confidence to open up to their superiors and disclose to them that they are feeling psychological effects of um, everyday stresses that police go through, yeah. I could perceive this old school of, you know, get through it, get it done. There just didn’t seem to be any debriefing, you know, for these traumatic events that he had to witness and be part of. And um i-in a word he started to break, openly. You know, emotionally on- by our phone call conversations, um he just- It was, it was very rapidly becoming all too much.

BRUCE BULLOCK, BRENDON’S FATHER: I could perceive this old school of, you know, get through it, get it done. Th-there just didn’t seem to be any debriefing, you know, for these traumatic events that he had to witness and be part of. And um i-in a word he started to break, openly. You know, em-emotionally on- by our phone call conversations, um he just- It was, it was very rapidly becoming all too much.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: One night in 2011 he went home, and never went back on duty, after being called to a domestic incident at a house in inner-west Sydney.

BRENDON BULLOCK: I arrived at the scene as one of the first response officers there and I observed a male person in the driveway of the residence, which he was covered in blood. And he disclosed to myself and other officers that he had killed his wife. I made my way down the back yard, into a, a flat underneath the house, and it was there that I found a woman who had been eh…hacked to pieces.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Brendon shielded two junior constables from the harrowing scene in the flat below. But he couldn’t protect himself from what he had witnessed.

BRENDON BULLOCK: It was the day that I had to be true to myself and accept that I was unable to process and deal with trauma, um, any longer.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Did he tell you about that incident?

BRUCE BULLOCK: He did.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: What did he say?

BRUCE BULLOCK: He just, he just told me the circumstances of how the callout came and what he was required to do. He was- he had two junior constables under his care that evening, and um he, but he [crying] Excuse me.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: For Brendon, the images of the wife mutilated by her husband tipped him over into full-blown mental illness.

JOHN COX, PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER: Brendon Bullock is one of the um worst affected Police Officers I’ve seen um when I first saw him. But then in terms of the impact that the delays and the litigation process took I watched his symptoms become significantly exac- exacerbated.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: When Brendon Bullock applied for compensation, it marked the start of a five year battle with insurers operating on behalf of the New South Wales Police Force.

JOHN COX: Police that end up in this situation with PTSD and out of their job um I think have a ah a right to feel that their claims will be handled swiftly but instead they find the opposite. And their claims are delayed, they’re frustrated and they go through quite lengthy process in getting um compensation and insurance claims paid.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Are those delays justified?

JOHN COX: No they’re not justified. In my experience ah the delays ah most often are deliberate delays.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Do some police officers simply give up?

JOHN COX: Yes. They do. And that’s why I think this is a deliberate ploy. Even one police officer giving up his claim is a significant saving for an insurance company.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Brendon was covered by the police’s Blue Ribbon insurance which entitles officers who are incapacitated to Total and Permanent Disability benefits.

JOHN COX: These people aren’t fraudulent, these claims aren’t fraudulent, these are the very best of the police that I see go out with PTSD. And can I just say that the pattern that occurs almost exclusively with these cl- with these claimants is that they come in and see me and they spend a significant part of that first conference crying in front of me. And I’m going to suggest to you that fraudulent claimsters would have difficult um or would be extremely good actors to go through that.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Instead of being granted your Blue Ribbon death and disability payment quickly, what occurred?

BRENDON BULLOCK: A lengthy and intrusive investigation into my disability.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: The insurers went to extraordinary lengths to check the veracity of Brendon’s claim. Investigators hired by one insurer, MetLife filmed him on at least six occasions, at his home, out shopping and going to the beach with his family.

Brendon’s lawyers wrote to MetLife, saying: “We ask that no surveillance is conducted on our client”, adding: “in 2006 and 2011 our client received death threats… Covert surveillance could exacerbate his condition.”

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Did they stop the surveillance?

BRENDON BULLOCK: No, they didn’t.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: As the surveillance continued, Brendon rang a MetLife supervisor, to ask about his claim for a total and permanent disability benefit.

Audio of conversation, Brendon Bullock and Metlife supervisor.

BRENDON BULLOCK: Mate I wanna talk to you about my claim – my TPD claim… Mate, what’s the delay with this TPD claim of mine?

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: He also wanted to see a psychiatric report commissioned by MetLife.

Audio of conversation, Brendon Bullock and Metlife supervisor

BRENDON BULLOCK: You should have a copy of that on file.

METLIFE SUPERVISOR: I believe we do, yes.

BRENDON BULLOCK: Mate why hasn’t that been sent to me, or sent to my legal team?

METLIFE SUPERVISOR: Er because unfortunately, First State Superannuation, which are the owner of the policy, forbids us to send medical reports to the claimant themselves.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: What MetLife’s supervisor didn’t reveal was that seven months earlier, the psychiatrist had advised that Brendon’s claim should be accepted.And the psychiatrist warned: “His condition is severe…he remains badly depressed, if not at risk of suicide.”

BRENDON BULLOCK: At that particular time I was in a state of self-destruction. I was drinking heavily, I was heavily medicated. Um I was hyper-vigilant, ah very aware that I was being watched, yet couldn’t understand why this surveillance was continuing.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: One day Brendon snapped, and confronted a private eye who was parked in his street.

Video of encounter between Brendon Bullock and private investigator

BRENDON BULLOCK: How are you doing mate, sitting outside my house?

PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: This ain’t outside your house. I’m not outside your house.

BRENDON BULLOCK: Mate you’re sitting outside my house; what are you doing?

PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: I’m not sitting outside your house…if you’ve got any problems call the cops. I’m about thirty metres from yours; I don’t know what you’re so rattled about.

BRENDON BULLOCK: I beg your pardon?

PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: I don’t know what you’re so rattled about.

BRENDON BULLOCK: You’ve been sitting in my fucking street for three days mate!

PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Yeah?

BRENDON BULLOCK: That’s what I’m fucking rattled about! Who are you working for?

PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Nothing to do with you. It’s got nothing to do with…

BRENDON BULLOCK: Who are you fucking working for? You’re a fucking idiot mate.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: The private investigator has told Four Corners that he was conducting surveillance in Brendon’s street – but not on Brendon. However Four Corners has established that on at least ten occasions after MetLife knew Brendon was suicidal; their investigators continued to surveil him.

BRUCE BULLOCK, BRENDON’S FATHER

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Do you think all the delays a-and the surveillance and everything exacerbated his condition?

BRUCE BULLOCK: Without a doubt. He, he spiralled downwards after that started to happen, over that period of time, unbelievably rapidly. A-and that was when by phone, the hundreds of hours of phone calls, you know, when he was in a really, really bad way, looking for help- [upset] It was really unfair. And I certainly did, and I’m sure Sandra did as well, we started to have some grave concerns about him.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Nine months after he lodged his disability claim, MetLife told Brendon they wouldn’t pay out, as a new insurer had taken over the policy.

BRENDON BULLOCK: The decision that they came to ah caused me t-to give up all hope. Um their decision to decline my claim ah pushed me to the edge and I just couldn’t take it anymore.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Brendon attempted to take his own life in his own backyard at home. His wife and two young daughters found him just in time.

BRENDON BULLOCK: It’s something I live with every single day and regret my actions. And I’ve got to take responsibility for those actions. But what I won’t accept is how the insurance companies drove me to a sense of no hope, no positive outlook. Yeah.

BRUCE BULLOCK, BRENDON’S FATHER: They were warned that there was a probability that Brendon would attempt, and they just wanted to sweep it under the carpet. I, I just I can’t, I can’t fathom why anybody would want to treat anybody like that. I-it’s madness!

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Do you blame them for what occurred?

BRUCE BULLOCK: Absolutely, one hundred percent. I have no doubt about that at all. Without those years of torture, the surveillance, the lack of support and all the above, Brendon wouldn’t have got to the point that he did. No doubt.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: A common tactic by the police’s insurers is to use surveillance to test an officer’s claim of PTSD.But most surveillance footage reveals nothing about a person’s state of mind.

PROFESSOR SANDY MCFARLANE, University of Adelaide’s Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Can the surveillance exacerbate an Officer’s PTSD?

SANDY MCFARLANE: Oh very much so. I mean one of the things that we know is the triggers in the environment will often drive people’s symptoms and distress. So if um ah a person is being followed it very clearly can make them significantly worse because ah they perceive this threat in their environment that that you know brings back very real things that have happened to them in their career.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Leading psychiatrist SANDY MCFARLANE has assessed hundreds of officers with PTSD.

PROFESSOR SANDY MCFARLANE: As a medical researcher I have to go and get very detailed consents from people ah to collect information about their health and welfare. Ah and I really don’t understand how under the privacy legislation these people can be followed and filmed ah in that way.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: When Greg, a New South Wales cop who asked us not to use his surname, made his claim, he too was filmed – shopping at the supermarket, walking to his car with a coffee; drinking another coffee in a restaurant. And here, talking on the phone.

GREG, RETIRED NSW POLICEMAN: I’ve gone from being a- a high ranking commissioned officer in a police force to basically being t- treated like a criminal. What they say to people is that well we don’t believe you. Um and we’re going to fight you all the way and I mean ultimately I, I think what they want to do is just drag it out as long as they can so you can either give up or go or- or go and kill yourself.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: In a 17-year career as a New South Wales cop, Greg was exposed to one horrific event after another.

GREG: The things police see and – and do all police, not just me, um almost on a daily basis are just you know now that I look back on them horrible, horrible things. Um you know people who’ve blown their heads off with shotguns, ah people who’ve jumped under trains, you know you’re picking up body parts, you’re holding you’re holding ah the bodies of- of dead babies that have died and then dealing with the emotions of the family.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: The deaths of children hit Greg particularly hard. He found himself taking it out on his own kids.

GREG: I’m pretty overprotective. I’m uh you know w- if one of my kids sort of hurts, hurts themselves um I tend to overreact quite badly. Um…

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: What do you mean by that?

GREG: Ah well, you know I, because- because of the emotions are so high an- inside me is that ah it- it normally ends up turning to anger, which sort of the reverse of what it should be. So it doesn’t make for a very happy family life if you know what I mean.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: It’s very confronting for them.

GREG: Mm… Oh it’s … m- my- my journey with PTSD has been horrible for them. I have an eight year old son who’s really only known me as an angry person and that- that’s not a really good situation for a family. I mean we’re lucky that we’re s- we still are a family to be honest.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: For Greg, the incident that triggered his spiral into PTSD, was the murder of an indigenous woman, Theresa Binge, in country New South Wales. Is this the spot?

GREG: Yes Quentin.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Her body was found dumped in a culvert.

GREG: I still find it hard. There’s an enormous sense of frustration and some guilt I suppose. She was a 43 year-old woman who was murdered and er, dragged out here in the middle of nowhere, naked, bashed, and displayed, and erm, that’s the long story short. You know, some people may be able to switch off, I don’t know, but um I still think about her and what happened, today.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Thirteen years on, his failure to bring Theresa’s killer to justice still causes Greg intense distress. How did that investigation start?

GREG: So it was 2003 um … just give me a minute. It’s pretty hard to talk about…I just can’t believe I still get so upset about this.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: As the horrors of life on the front line multiplied, so too did Greg’s efforts to suppress them.

GREG: You just got on with it, because I mean w-what’s the choice? You can’t have coppers you know in the corner rocking back and forth every time they see a dead body. N- No work would get done. There are things to be done so you push them to the side and you get on with it.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: But his anger – a dangerous symptom of PTSD – was growing. Finally, he snapped.

GREG: It was building, building and building, the anger. Um and not just towards crooks but towards my colleagues. Um and you know, it was it was sort of the case that um you know I, I s- y-you scare yourself. You’re walking around with a firearm on your hip and y-you’re that angry and you’re that wound up and um you don’t sort of think that there’s any out. It’s not a good place to be if you’re a cop with a gun on your hip walking round the streets full of that much anger. It’s just not safe.

KYLIE, GREG’S WIFE

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: He came home and- and he was punching holes in the wall wasn’t he?

KYLIE: Yes. Yeah, it was … it was shocking. It was confronting. A man that I saw as someone who was strong, very capable, very intelligent, very…I was so proud of him brought down to a level of being un- not in control of his emotions. It was it was … upsetting. It was devastating.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: After he put his claim in, Greg and his family were followed and filmed.

GREG: To learn that you know for 80 hours some guy in a car with a camera followed me around and took photos of me, followed my wife, took pictures of my kids at the beach, um is absolutely humiliating.

KYLIE: I don’t see how it’s lawful to film children without parents’ express permission When it comes to children, it’s not right and Greg and our family does not deserve to be treated that way.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Greg’s last day on duty was six years ago – but even now, he and Kylie suspect they are still being surveilled in relation to a further claim.

KYLIE: It’s not helping Greg. He’s scared to go out in case he’s being followed. It can happen at any day at any time. Um we’ve recently had a car sitting out the front taking photographs. We’ve got it on we’ve got CCTV footage of it. We have cameras around our house. We have six foot walls to try and keep some privacy but still they persist.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Greg has even closed down his Facebook account, after investigators hired by one insurer – Employers Mutual – started spying on his posts.The investigators captured and kept more than 13,000 items from Greg’s Facebook account. But they insist: “We did not breach privacy legislation in our data collection activity.”

JOHN COX, PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER: The desktop surveillance is something that we saw commence approx 18 months ago and these are ah private investigation companies retained by the insurers and the police force ah to basically ah monitor and collect data on social media about these claimants.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: How intrusive is it?

JOHN COX: Extremely intrusive and I must say not only intrusive but in my opinion ah the actions of some of these investigators are illegal.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: In what sense?

JOHN COX: Well in the sense that social media is important for many ex-Police. It is the only way that they socialize if you like. Ah and they have high security settings. Now the law says Section 308H that anyone who breaches a security setting on a, a computer system um is committing an offence. In the desktop enquiries I’ve seen that’s occurred. I’m instructed that my clients have had very high security settings and they’ve been breached.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Greg has finally won a settlement for total and permanent disability. But his battle with EML is continuing. He blames the insurers’ tactics for damaging his chances of recovery.

GREG: Here I was trying to get my health back, mental, physical everything, keep my family together and all they were doing was tearing it apart and you know still continues today.

PROF SANDY MCFARLANE, University of Adelaide’s Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies: In my view there’s an enormous conflict of interest ah for the insurers. They’re about saving money ah and about profits. And I think that potentially a-at times drives what I would see as being ah unethical behaviour ah and not understanding that they’re actually part of a health and welfare system where a an equal concern needs to be about providing people with the care ah and compensation and income maintenance for people who have genuinely ah been injured ah in the course ah of a public service.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: In Victoria psychologist Tony McHugh has helped police and military veterans recover from trauma. Surprisingly, he says, it isn’t war veterans who suffer the greatest psychological damage.

DR TONY MCHUGH DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY, UNI OF MELB: Police are the most traumatised group in the community. Um w-we know this ah because of exposure to police stories. We know this from the limited research that is done. Ah over a 20 year career, ah police will seem ah many, many badly injured and deceased people way in excess of what one would normally see in a military career.

PROF SANDY MCFARLANE: As many people are developing the disorder as have it at the current time. So eh. We’re really talking there about twenty percent of ah the Police Forces around Australia have have got a a group of people who at significant ah risk in terms of their mental health.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: So one in five police officers around Australia either have or could develop PTSD?

PROF SANDY MCFARLANE: Yes eh that that would be a, a reasonable ah estimate.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: What effect can that have on their ability to do the job?

SANDY MCFARLANE: I think that’s really the critical issue that the public needs to be interested in. Ah there are number of ways that ah an officer ah is I think a risk to themselves and to the community.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: In Victoria, the scale of the problem has been painfully exposed by a spate of police suicides. Thirty-five serving officers have taken their own lives since 1995, including four this year alone.

DR TONY MCHUGH, DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY, UNI OF MELB: What we know is that suicide overlaps enormously with mental health problems and if we have undiagnosed mental health problems in exposed populations like the military or police, then it’s likely that there’s going to be a greater number of suicides…Edit… The systems haven’t done well enough in looking at this and ah the sooner the the number of suicides can be reduced, hopefully to practically zero, the better.

GRAHAM ASHTON, CHIEF COMMISSIONER VICTORIAN POLICE: As with many police I’ve had colleagues that have er at the extreme end of mental health trauma have taken their lives and so I’ve felt that personally and er it’s had an impact on me personally and so it’s something that I’m very much personally committed to as a priority for Victoria Police to get right and improve.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Last year Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton ordered a review into the mental health and wellbeing of officers in Victoria. It concluded that the culture must change from the top down.

GRAHAM ASHTON: It actually had some strong recommendations for us, telling us that we hadn’t been providing the necessary leadership around these issues. Our managers weren’t sufficiently skilled in mental health management. They weren’t skilled enough in terms of knowing what to do to provide adequate support, and weren’t interventionist enough in relation to reaching in, looking for signs of trouble and difficulty with our staff. We recognise it as an issue. The next step is to actually deal with it as an issue.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Rob Bailey is a survivor of the infamous Russell Street bombing in Melbourne thirty years ago; he counsels other officers with PTSD who he believes, the system has failed.

GRAHAM ASHTON: I often have been asked by ah professionals to go and visit police who are in p-poor situations, some of the serving members and some that are ah retired police, ah from professional people and they’re in a bad way. They’re in a bad way and they feel like they’ve been abandoned.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: It it’s a terrible waste of talent as well isn’t it?

ROB BAILEY: It is and in dealing with the retired police, it’s really, really sad to see some of these people who headed up major divisions in the Victoria Police that are now retired sitting there drinking a slab of beer and a cask of wine every day.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Glenn Keyte has only just left the Force after a long and distinguished career. When he worked in internal affairs, he helped investigate the suicides of fellow officers. He says the need for change is now urgent.

GLENN KEYTE, RETIRED VICTORIAN POLICEMAN: How about getting them some treatment, rather than knocking them back? Because I’m telling you now, there will be more and more of this happen and how many police members have to resign, retire, suicide, before they actually sit there and go, okay, alright, we’re going to acknowledge this problem? It’s huge and it’s not going to get any better. It’s only going to get worse.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: After dealing with a number of police suicides Glenn too developed PTSD. And like many others, he didn’t get the help he needed.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: When you went back to Vic Pol and said I have PTSD did they accept that?

GLENN KEYTE: No you’re asking for help, but then when you say, well how do I get it, they say, no. And when you get a refusal it’s like they dismiss, that you’ve got no issue at all. And then when that happens what do you do then?

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: For the psychiatrists who treat police officers like Glenn, early intervention can make the difference between keeping an officer in the job, and throwing him on the scrapheap.

PROF SANDY MCFARLANE, UNIVERSITY OF ADELAIDE’S CENTRE FOR TRAUMATIC STRESS STUDIES: All the evidence is that that’s where we need to go and um one of the challenges is that we’re dealing with a culture of people who tend to deny their own welfare ah and ignore their own suffering. I mean often you have to do that in extreme circumstances to function. So they’re not an easy group to get up eh to take up the opportunities for early intervention but I think that requires a very big cultural si- shift and a whole programme of education.

TONY MCHUGH, DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY, UNI OF MELB: My particular hope is that we will get earlier treatment interventions. Um th-that’s a win for everyone. It’s a win for the Force, it’s a win for the officer and it’s even a win for the Work Cover system. Earlier intervention prevents the growth of ah mental ill health.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: How helpful or unhelpful um in all of this are the insurers?

TONY MCHUGH: The insurers have an incredibly important role to play and my my view is that they don’t play it well enough at times. Um there’s data, ah there’s data that talks about the number of cases that are rejected and the number is way too high.

PROF SANDY MCFARLANE: The trouble is that so often these organisations see this as simply a problem of compensation. This is not just a problem of compensation. It’s about how you know humankind can only tolerate so much reality.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Tony Crowley joined the South Australian Police Force when he was 16 years old. He devoted his whole working life to the job – and left a broken man.

PROF SANDY MCFARLANE: Tony’s story is one that’s very typical ah of Police Officers. He he went in enthused, energetic, hoping that he could do some good for the community um and really from a fairly early age ha- was exposed to some pretty horrific situations.

TONY CROWLEY, retired SA policeman: Shotgun blasts to the head, um, people hanging from their sheds, um, people gassing themselves in their cars, people gassing themselves with their families in forests in their cars, murder-suicides.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Tony himself personifies the police’s failure to deal with mental illness, and what can happen to an officer on duty when early treatment isn’t given, and post traumatic stress disorder goes unchecked.

TONY CROWLEY, RETIRED SA POLICEMAN: My temper wouldn’t just hover around nought to ten, it would go from nought to a hundred at a situation. If things weren’t working at work properly, instead of just complaining or fixing it, I’d break it. I’d put me fist through it.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Sandy McFarlane is Tony’s treating psychiatrist.

PROF SANDY MCFARLANE: He was a man who had always been very willing to walk forward towards danger but that takes its toll and there comes a point when he gets into those situations he begins to lose control of himself.

News piece: Andrew Mark Norrie was arrested last Friday near Mount Gambier after what police claim was a seven day shooting spree…

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: After surviving a gun-fight with a notorious serial killer, Tony was ordered back on duty that same night.

TONY CROWLEY: I took from that that um many things, culture, um man up, um if you’re tired stiff shit and if you think you’re stressed out also stiff shit, you’re going to come to work um and don’t even think about going sick. You know j- just brutal words and brutal attitude. Ah that’s probably the closest to counselling I ever got in my life a-and that that is a fact.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Tony Crowley experienced an unending series of horrors. As the images piled one on top of another, so too did the symptoms of PTSD – nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, suicidal thoughts – and a growing, dangerous anger.

TONY CROWLEY: If there was a huge fight on I wanted to be there, I wanted to be amongst it. If there was a weapon involved, if there was a gun involved…I don’t know what I was thinking, but I wanted to be the first there, I wanted to be, I wanted to be involved.

SANDY MCFARLANE, University of Adelaide’s Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies: The more an officer becomes traumatised by the job um they become increasingly worried as they approach a dangerous situation. And one of the emotions that can override fear is aggression. So one of the real risks is that Officers who are becoming really increasingly anxious become increasingly aggressive and increasingly impulsive.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: At a meeting one day, Tony lost control and his anger boiled over, when he thought his boss was being rude.

TONY CROWLEY: I snapped, yeah, I did. I remember clenching and shaking and- and um I had thoughts of punching him. I was going to punch him I caught a train and went home. Um and Ann come home from work and I just said eh I think my days are numbered. Um um this happened today at work and and I’m going to hurt and kill someone a-and th- this is the end of my career and I couldn’t see myself coming back out of that ever. Um so th- th- that was my final straw.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Tony left the Force and lodged an insurance claim – but his troubles didn’t end there. The South Australian police wanted him to return to work, and sent him for an assessment with a psychiatrist they’d hired.

TONY CROWLEY: My temper was at 100 per cent and it embarrasses me to say this . There was a spare chair sitting next to me and I pictured it and I was going through the motions of throwing that chair through the 30th story window of Westpac House and him following it.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Tony now lives off his police pension and a meagre award of $65,000 to fund his lifelong medication and treatment for PTSD.

TONY CROWLEY: I had so much qualifications and I offered training to so many people. They couldn’t use me for any of those. There’s something wrong with them. It- it’s it’s bad to the core a-and where do you start? I, I don’t know. Recognition I suppose is- is about the start of it.

SANDY MCFARLANE, UNIVERSITY OF ADELAIDE’S CENTRE FOR TRAUMATIC STRESS STUDIES.

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: It seems like such a waste of human capital to have highly trained officers ending up severely disabled and even suicidal. Would you agree with that?

SANDY MCFARLANE: Absolutely. And ah I think it’s a tragedy that the Government ultimately doesn’t sit back and look at the evidence and see that these are occupations that carry with them a cons- significant risk to the health and welfare of people who voluntarily go into these roles. I think the Governments have actually negated their responsibility to protect people who serve the community um and I think have put the bar f- too high in terms of long term compensation for officers.

GREG, RETIRED NSW POLICEMAN: When you disengage from the police force, um there’s very, very little dignity. There’s almost none. To the point where you are really treated like a criminal. The very criminal, the very criminals I used to lock up so when they follow me around like a criminal or follow my wife and kids and take photos of them, that’s the stuff I used to do to people who are doing armed robberies. Now you think what have I done to deserve that?

QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: After four years, Brendon Bullock’s claim for total and permanent disability benefits was finally accepted.

But his life now is a far cry from the day he graduated.

BRUCE BULLOCK, BRENDON’S FATHER: I-it’s left a gaping hole in him. Um and he’s really, really sorry that it’s come to this. He misses it.

BRENDON BULLOCK, RETIRED NSW POLICEMAN: I struggle with it every day. I have lost a career that I loved. I lost a marriage. It’s broken me.

SARAH FERGUSON: Given how much we ask of our police is it too much to expect that we take proper care of them when they need it most?

 

END

Not a Zero-Sum Game

Not a Zero-Sum Game

“There are two kinds of people: eaters and bakers. Eaters think the world is a zero-sum game: what you eat, someone else cannot eat, so they eat as much as they can. Bakers think that the world is not a zero-sum game—they can just bake more and bigger pies. Everyone can eat more. People trust bakers and not eaters.”
Author: Guy Kawasaki

In the world of the SMPs and HR managers the inhabitants are all eaters.  They wrongly think that an injury pension is there to top up to a certain level any earnings achieved by a disabled former officer. They think the pension plate is intended to only hold a certain amount of food. The worst of them think the food on the plate is not the pensioner’s food, but theirs.

They get this idea from some well-past-its-sell-by-date guidance issued by the Home Office. The plank who wrote the unlawful guidance contained in Annex C to HO circular 46/2004 (guidance now disgraced, destroyed, dismantled and withdrawn) is the same chunk of knotty pine who penned this astounding bit of nonsense:

‘How an injury award is calculated
4. An injury award consists of a lump-sum gratuity and also a pension where, as is normally the case, the person’s other relevant income needs to be topped up to the level of his or her minimum income guarantee.’ [Our emphasis]

We have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating, and repeating, until the message gets through. The Regulations do not place a cap on what a disabled former officer might earn, or be thought to be capable of earning. The amount of pension paid has no link whatever with earnings, whether real, speculative or whatever.

SMPs and HR managers, when they bother to actually look in the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006, and at the table in Schedule 3, which sets out the various levels of pension payment, see the phrase, ‘minimum income guarantee’ then think this means that a pensioner is not supposed to earn more outside the police than was earned whilst in the job.

They think that pension payments are like a game, where one player’s gain is always another player’s loss. They see pension payments as a drain on scarce resources.

It is but a short step from these basic misconceptions over the purpose of the police injury pension regulations to want to devise ways to gobble up whatever they can of the money due to disabled former officers.

Trouble is, their actions will come back to bite them. Truly a case of the biter bit. What SMPs and HR managers in some forces are doing is illegal, and dare we say, incredibly illogical and stupid. We don’t mean to be unkind, or descend into name-calling, even though some SMPs and HR managers have been really, really nasty to disabled former police officers. So, we can let them off the ‘stupid’ allegation, but only if their actions are recognised as considered and deliberate – which would of course mean that they had set out to break the law. So, if I were you, dear SMP or HR, I would accept the ‘stupid’ label as being no more than a factual description and implore you do something positive about it. Like gaining a proper, correct, understanding the Regulations.

We here in IODPA think you would benefit from some educating about the scope and purpose of the  Regulations. When we say, ‘benefit’ we genuinely mean that. It is as much in the interest of HR managers and SMPs as it is ours to see police injury pensions administered within the law. Why risk reputation and career on a wrong-headed attacks on police injury pensions? If you would like to see your name featured, not in a nice way, in the transcript of an Administrative Court case, as has happened to the likes of Nicholas Wirz and that scion of the medical profession, Dr Broome, then, go ahead – keep on breaking the Regulations.

In effect the, literally, misguided denizens of some HR departments and the tame SMPs they instruct, administer the Regulations as if a salary of any amount is a ‘deductible benefit‘.

Perhaps this way of thinking may be valid in the world of welfare state benefits. Britain’s postwar political consensus, which guaranteed citizens ‘protection from want’ from cradle to grave colours some people’s attitudes to police injury pensions. But not in an appropriate or acceptable way. An injury pension may be a ‘benefit’ but it is not a means-tested State benefit. It is, quite simply, compensation for injury received whilst on duty, paid in the form of a pension for the life of the individual.

The drafters of the various police injury Regulations recognised that it would be wrong to receive payment twice for duty injury. So, the 2006 Regulations require that an injury pension shall be reduced by the amount of “any” Incapacity Benefit paid until the first day the pensioner is capable of working again (though not as a police officer) after retirement, at which stage the entitlement to Incapacity Benefit would cease.

In late 2008 Incapacity Benefit was withdrawn and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) began. Just as some police pension authorities blatantly disregard the Regulations in most aspects, a sizeable number of forces have continued to illegally deduct this new allowance from injury awards.

This stands as more proof, if any extra was needed, of police pension authorities who are incompetent administrators of injury awards.

ESA should not have been deducted as it is not defined as a ‘relevant benefit’ in Schedule 3 of the Police [Injury Benefit] Regulations 2006. It may well have been an oversight on the part of the Home Office not to have amended the Regulations so as to substitute ESA for incapacity benefit. The Home Office’s mistake, if that is what it was, is no excuse for forces unlawfully deducting a non-specified benefit.

Now, please pay attention, SMPs and HR managers, for this is the bit you need to get your heads around. Just as with ESA , a salary earned by a disabled former officer is obviously not defined as a ‘relevant benefit’.  Unlike ESA, it never will be.  An injury award is not designed as something that replaces something else only in times of need – it guarantees a minimum income whether or not other income is earned.

It is not a temporary security blanket to help only until that person is back upon their feet.

It is an award for life and serves a purpose as compensation for work-related injuries

Please read the Explanatory memorandum to the police (injury benefit) regulations 2006

An injury award also provides vital reassurance for police officers who may often face adverse and dangerous situations in their routine working day. That is the cornerstone of what is admittedly a generous scheme of compensation.

Note to SMPs, HR managers, some Federation and NARPO types: you may think that injury pensioners get a good deal. Please don’t let your jealously cloud your professional judgement, or duty. Think instead, if you will, of facing a lifetime of disablement, of dealing with pain, frustration and rejection, of having your life curtailed in so many ways, and employment opportunities reduced dramatically, and then having to suffer the ignorant and often spiteful attitudes of people who should know better.

Within the police injury pension Regulations there are certain things which are fixed and thus not up for adjustment, or revision or review. They are the final police salary of the medically retired officer, the last, latest, final decision on degree of disablement, and the fact that that only a substantial alteration in degree of disablement allows any revision of the amount of injury pension paid.

The injury pension is always a percentage of that final police salary, artificially fixed in time for perpetuity, but index linked to whatever the cost of living is in a given year based on the Consumer Price Index so to protect against the devaluing nature of inflation.

Disabled former officers are expected to work and earn, if they chose to do so, to a greater or lesser degree. The Regulations are designed to take that into account. That is why there are four bands of disablement. The point that needs to be borne in mind though is that, whatever the band, there is disablement present, and thus some degree of reduction in an individual’s capacity to work and earn.

Admittedly, it is perhaps counter-intuitive to consider that an award of band four does not necessarily mean that person is totally unable to work. Of course, a sizeable proportion of people in band four are totally unable to work, but we can see that the Regulations hope or trust that some amount of work might be achievable. However, it should not be beyond the wit of so-called professionals, paid to administer the Regulations, to understand that being assessed as being in band four, ‘very severe disablement’ actually means that out of their capacity to earn (either potential or realised), at least 76% of the earning capacity equivalent to the last final salary they received as a police officer has been denied them.

If it can be evidenced that an individual former officer has detrimentally lost the capacity to earn more than 24% of what they would be capable of earning as a police officer if they were not injured, then that person is a bona fide band four. It matters not that the individual is currently earning, say £76,000 a year. It is utterly wrong for a SMP, or someone in HR to look at those earnings and to start at zero by comparing that salary with the former police salary. What matters is that this person, without the index injury, could have the potential to earn at at least £100,000 and therefore their earning capacity has been detrimentally lowered by £24,000.

There is a corollary to this which applies to the injury award given no matter what level of the banding.

It is not a zero sum calculation always starting from nought. A SMP working for Merseyside, Nottinghamshire or Avon & Somerset would treat this salary as a deductible benefit and illicitly remove it from the award, thus making the person a band one – ignoring the truth that there has been no change to the person’s medical condition and therefore no difference in the capacity to earn.

Whatever is earned is not to be deducted directly from the award. The salary of a police officer, at the time they were medically retired, is not an accurate gauge of what that person could actually earn. The award, however, makes sure that the former officer is guaranteed a proportion of at least that income at that snapshot in time.

The point is this: the salary of an officer when they are medically retired does not even equal the theoretical maximum earning capacity of that person as a police officer let alone as a productive uninjured member of society.

Likewise the injury award of a medically retired officer who, due to the incapacity of their disablement, is totally unable to work does not fully compensate that person for the loss of all of their earning capacity – it can only compensate for the amount earned when that person was able to serve as a police officer.

It is noted that some individuals, before they were injured, may have continued in a role such as a beat officer or a uniformed response police officer for which they are over-educated, over-qualified or amply experienced purely as they feel it is a vocation, they enjoy thief-taking or in the hopes that they will be able to specialise or to be promoted in the future.  They may have left a high-flying job to pursue their dream of becoming a police officer.

Arguably if a true forensic actuarial compensation was calculated, the exposure of a police force to compensate for someone’s true loss of earning capacity would greatly exceed the amount payable by injury awards. In other words, the injury award is intended to dissuade those injured on duty from suing the police force that medically retired them. This is the truth of the minimum income guarantee purpose of the award and this is why anyone exercising their latent capacity to earn should appeal when a SMP or HR manager does some clever jiggery-pokery calculations involving deducting earnings from former police salary, or national average earnings, or the assumed, speculative earnings potential of the individual in the same manner than ESA is unlawfully deducted.

We at IODPA would like SMPs and HR managers to think about what they have been told by the Home Office, elements with the NAMF, and by the likes of Mr Wirz, and contemplate another short quote from Guy Kawasaki:

‘Defy the crowd. The crowd isn’t always wise. It can also lead you down a path of silliness, sub-optimal choices, and downright destruction.’