‘An erosion of trust, respect, integrity, and the lack of compassion and decency’: NT Police Sergeant’s resignation letter

by | Dec 5, 2021 | Cops, News | 0 comments

An Alice Springs Detective Sergeant has cited an “erosion of trust, respect, integrity, and the lack of compassion and common decency” in the NT Police executive team as the reason for resigning after 24 years service, in a letter sent to Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker.

Territory-born Leith Phillips, who has also acted as a Senior Sergeant, said he gave formal notice of his resignation on Thursday in the letter to Mr Chalker that his last day would be on January 3, but he said he was forced out of the Alice Springs police station on Friday.

“For my 24 years’ service I had my computer and swipe card access revoked, I was then tracked down inside the Alice Springs police station by Acting Commander Kirsten Engels who feigned compassion, instructed not to touch the computer, escorted to collect the last of my personal belongings and escorted to the front door of the police station,” he wrote.

“The reason given, that ‘they’, presumably the executive, were concerned as to who I would speak with whilst inside the police station and what I might do, presumably via email or other.”

NT Police media manager Rob Cross did not respond to a request for a response to the email, but Mr Phillips is now subject to disciplinary action, with Acting Commander Kylie Anderson issuing him an 11-page Section 79 notice for alleged serious breaches of discipline – which the NT Independent has seen – one of the alleged breaches being the resignation letter.

The resignation letter was described as being  “disrespectful and discourteous” and “disgraceful and improper” to Mr Chalker and the executive, and “improper and disrespectful” towards Deputy Commissioner Murray Smalpage.

It said Sgt Phillips had been instructed by a commander on August 12 not to contact Mr Chalker, and that he had accepted the disciplinary action against him.

Sgt Phillips said that action came because he had sent an email to Mr Chalker with some links to various ‘COVID-19 sites’, including the Australian COVID Medical Network, and advised him he should be better informed.

“The discipline was a meeting with Laidler (Commander Craig Laidler) who said do not communicate with the COP any further. Nothing in writing was provided to me and I was not served any documents,” he said.

The other alleged breach is over the fully vaccinated Sgt Phillips giving a 15-minute speech at a Free in the NT rally in Alice Springs on Novmeber 27, where he did not identify himself as a police officer – although he is well known in the town – where he said he was not speaking on behalf of his employer.

In that speech, he said he personally wanted a revocation of the NT’s emergency declaration, which would remove the chief health officer’s directives including the COVID-19 vaccination mandate. Sgt Phillips also said emergency declarations should be reduced back to five-day orders from the current 90-day orders, and the power of the chief medical officer should be severely curtailed into some form of advisory board, and that no employer should be able to discriminate on the basis of medical or vaccination status.

He said he was at times embarrassed to be a police officer because of the way the rights of citizens were set aside over COVID-19 regulations.

Mr Smalpage also suspended him without pay for the breaches, in a notice also seen by the NT Independent.

Sgt Phillips had also given a 13-page response to the police executive’s request for feedback about proposed mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for officers or the use of masks in the unvaccinated which included the following: his questioning the fatality infection rate modelling for COVID-19; his criticism of the chief health officer directions over-riding historic rights and protections; his championing the use of ivermectin to treat the virus; criticism of the methods of the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine; criticism of the vaccine mandate not allowing for informed consent; criticisms of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test; and criticism of universal mask wearing.

YOU can listen to Mr Phillip’s speech in Alice Springs here.

The Zach Rolfe charge and waning support of Chalker

Sgt Phillips started his letter to Mr Chalker – you can read the full letter at the bottom of the article – with a section called the “excuse provision” where he said he wanted to invoke the “Smallpage defence” and apologise in advance for any offence he may cause in the letter.

“I trust this is a sufficient defence for any intended disciplinary action,” he wrote.

That was a reference to Mr Smalpage’s accidental live-streaming of himself in September joking that a collective noun for police officers would be a “murder”. Mr Chalker issued a statement saying there would be no disciplinary action because Mr Smalpage “did not intend to cause such offence”.

The “murder” comment was viewed as offensive by some NT police officers and members of the public who suggested that Mr Smalpage was poking fun of Constable Zach Rolfe who is facing trial for the shooting death of Kumanjayi Walker when trying to arrest him in Yuendumu in 2019, days before Ms Chalker took the top job.

Sgt Phillips was scathing of Mr Chalker, who he said he has worked alongside, and later defended after he rose to police commissioner. He was also critical of the executive charging Constable Rolfe with murder four days after the shooting.

“Sir, and I use this honorific purely due to the respect I hold for the office of the Commissioner of Police, not the person who currently holds this position, as I no longer have any confidence in your ability to lead this organisation with respect, honour, and integrity,” he wrote.

“I have been pushed into and forced to undertake this action (his resignation) due to the erosion of trust, respect, integrity, and the lack of compassion and common decency which is no longer an integral part of your decision making or that of your executive leadership team.

“In the mess that followed Saturday 9 November 2019 (the death of Mr Walker), and the tumultuous circumstances of your first days in office, I supported and vouched for you when others were against you, through the first six months of your commencement as COP.

“I did this because I knew you, and was hopeful of positive change as I had observed your progression through the ranks since you were a plain clothes Sergeant in Alice Springs CIB.

“However, since this time, I have borne witness and been subject to your leadership group undertaking persistent executive overreach into police investigations whereby it has become blindingly obvious that very few of your executives have any confidence in the investigative experience and skill-set of the police officers under their commands.

“Nor does it appear that they display any current investigative skill themselves and appear to have lost complete touch with the realities of current day policing.”

In mid October, the NT Independent reported NT Police assistant commissioner Dr Narelle Beer resigned – making her the third of the Territory’s top brass to resign this year – citing alleged bullying, sources said, adding that she felt “used” by the executive over the charging of Constable Rolfe.

A source said Ms Beer was unhappy when other NT Police executives oversaw the charging of Constable Rolfe after Ms Beer had arranged for him to be flown from Alice Springs to Darwin on November 13, 2019.

At the time, NT Police said they held concerns for the officer’s safety, which necessitated the transfer, but instead used the opportunity to charge him with murder over the shooting death of Kumanjayi Walker.

The loss of experience from the ranks

Sgt Phillips told Mr Chalker his leadership had overseen the loss of numerous skilled detectives and general duty police officers to other jurisdictions and fields of investigation around the country, leaving the NT’s small force depleted of skilled senior detectives and senior officers on the ground.

“It has been a deplorable loss of experience over a very short period for which you have presided and appeared to have encouraged those members to leave,” he wrote.

“One can only ask why a leader would be so willing to deplete his workforce of its experience base?

“Would it be so that those who have the experience and therefore the courage and integrity to speak against poor policy are no longer around, leaving a junior group who are more willing to comply with poor leadership because they do not know any better?”

The NT Police annual report was tabled in late September that showed the attrition rate shot to 8.51 per cent – from 4.53 per cent in the 2019-20 financial year, and 4.66 per cent the year before. The annual report does not give the actual number of officers who left, or a breakdown of why they left, but is calculated using resignations, terminations, retirements and dismissals.

In mid September, the NT Police Association’s 2021 member survey results were published and showed more Territory cops were seeking a job outside the NT than ever before, with officers citing management issues as their reason for leaving.

Of more than 531 respondents, 60 per cent or 318 police officers have either applied or are considering applying for a job outside of the NT Police, doubling attrition rates since last year.

“The ‘brain drain’ from our organisation has impacted and will continue to impact investigations into the future,” Mr Phillips wrote.

“How many homicides and critical incidents have this executive specifically been involved with in their career?

“I was part of the Alice Springs CIB during the infamous 2006-2008 period where we investigated some nine-plus homicides in that 18 month period and for the most part, ran them autonomously from Darwin.

“How many in the executive have been involved in Supreme Court trials where, regardless of the outcome, it is the experience gained from these cases that helps develop investigative skill sets?

“There are some executive members, but not many, and this is something that can never be trained for.

“It is this experience we are losing and to have a Commander or above dictate or question my ability, or that of the senior investigating team, as to how to undertake an impartial investigation is insulting at the least and evidence of a lack of experience and trust from those asking the question.”

Police involvement in the COVID-19 response

Sgt Phillips said his trust had been further eroded by what he said was a “continuous and heavy-handed police response” to COVID-19 which began in early 2020.

“We have seen hard working members of our community fined exorbitant sums of money for breaching a chief health officer direction, which is not a law, but simply a CHO directive enforceable only for the duration of an emergency declaration,” he said.

“We have been used as the big stick in a health response where these same hard-working citizens of our community have borne the brunt of flattening the curve, and then have been forced to undergo quarantine for weeks at a time.

“In Alice Springs, citizens are detained at the Todd Facility where they have less rights and freedom than a prisoner being held in ‘G’ block or in an isolation cell at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre.

“The abuse of basic civil (and) human rights is beyond me, and I am ashamed to wear the uniform where it says that I am to serve and protect the people of the Northern Territory.”

Sgt Phillips said earlier in the year he had emailed and texted Mr Chalker regarding the police response to COVID-19 and had received responses.

“This ended when you obviously took offence at being provided information which was not in accordance with the current public narrative and therefore had me counselled through the chain of command by an ASCOM with the instruction that I was to not communicate with you any further,” he wrote.

“I have not done so until now. This was a further erosion of that trust in the office of the Commissioner of Police.

“Just for the record, I am double vaxxed, however because I am anti-mandate, and am providing comfort to those who are not vaxxed, I am a tin-foil-hat-wearing anti-vaxxer.

“I am not an anti-vaxxer, I am pro-choice and I believe in informed consent – the right for everyone to conduct a risk assessment of their personal circumstances and proceed if the benefit outweighs the risk.

“A right that no longer appears to be an option in society.”

Sgt Phillips said there was degeneration under COVID-19 of the NT Police force where the law was being used as a tool for political repression and it was enforced unequally on parties with a different set of rules favouring a few sections of society.

“The manipulation, coercion, force, and bullying tactics used in the forced standing down of good people and members of the Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Service (sworn and unsworn), medical practitioners, teachers and others in the public service is simply irrational, without thought, logic or common-sense,” he wrote.

“In any other time, the actions of our executive and government would be deemed unlawful and as an abuse of office and put simply, would result in multiple counts of unlawful dismissal.

“Regardless of your position on vaccination, I ask all of the senior executive, what is your line in the sand?

“Where will you stop and stand and say ‘this far and no further’ in relation to your loss of freedom and the illogical mandates you are enforcing on members and the public?

“Remember, the CHO directions (rules) and any future changes to the law which may reflect these current discriminatory directives are the exact same rules which you and your family must also live under when you are off duty.

“You commissioned officers and those in the executive, you are not exempt.”

READ THE FULL LETTER:


Commissioner of Police,

Excuse Provision

Firstly, I invoke the ‘SMALLPAGE’ defence and apologise in advance for any offence I may cause in this email and in any attachment. I trust this is a sufficient defence for any intended disciplinary action.

Formal Notice of Resignation

I gave formal notice of resignation from the Northern Territory Police Force on Thursday 02 December 2021, effective as of close of business 03 January 2022, the last day of my current personal leave.

Friday 03 December 2021

For my 24 years’ service I had my computer and swipe card access revoked, I was then tracked down inside the Alice Springs Police Station by Acting Commander Kirsten Engles who feigned compassion, instructed not to touch the computer, escorted to collect the last of my personal belongings and escorted to the front door of the police station.

The reason given, that ‘they’ (presumably the executive) were concerned as to who I would speak with whilst inside the police station and what I might do (presumably via email or other).

So, here is the ‘what I might do’ part of ‘their’ concern.

Erosion of trust

Sir, and I use this honorific purely due to the respect I hold for the office of the Commissioner of Police (COP), not the person who currently holds this position, as I no longer have any confidence in your ability to lead this organisation with respect, honour, and integrity.

I have come to the position of resigning from the Northern Territory Police Force in my 24th year of service, having commenced on 05 October 1998. I have been pushed into and forced to undertake this action due to the erosion of trust, respect, integrity, and the lack of compassion and common decency which is no longer an integral part of your decision making or that of your executive leadership team.

In the mess that followed Saturday 09 November 2019, and the tumultuous circumstances of your first days in office, I supported and vouched for you when others were against you through the first six (6) months of your commencement as COP. I did this because I knew you and was hopeful of positive change as I had observed your progression through the ranks since you were a plain clothes Sergeant in Alice Springs CIB.

However, since this time, I have borne witness and been subject to your leadership group undertaking persistent executive overreach into police investigations whereby it has become blindingly obvious that very few of your executives have any confidence in the investigative experience and skillset of the police officers under their commands. Nor does it appear that they display any current investigative skill themselves and appear to have lost complete touch with the realities of current day policing.

Subsequently, under your leadership, we have seen the loss of numerous skilled Detectives and general duty police officers to other jurisdictions and fields of investigation around the country, leaving our small force depleted of skilled senior Detectives and senior officers on the ground. It has been a deplorable loss of experience over a very short period for which you have presided and appeared to have encouraged those members to leave. One can only ask why a leader would be so willing to deplete his workforce of its experience base? Would it be so that those who have the experience and therefore the courage and integrity to speak against poor policy are no longer around, leaving a junior group who are more willing to comply with poor leadership because they do not know any better?

The ‘brain drain’ from our organisation has impacted and will continue to impact investigations into the future. How many homicides and critical incidents have this executive specifically been involved with in their career? I was part of the Alice Springs CIB during the infamous 2006-2008 period where we investigated some 9+ homicides in that 18 month period and for the most part, ran them autonomously from Darwin. This was when the Stuart Highway was dubbed the ‘Cannabis Highway to the stabbing capital of Australia’ (thank you SC Deanne Horwood for coining that phrase). How many in the executive have been involved in Supreme Court trials where, regardless of the outcome, it is the EXPERIENCE gained from these cases that helps develop investigative skill sets? There are some executive members, but not many, and this is something that can NEVER be trained for.  It is this EXPERIENCE we are losing and to have a Commander or above dictate or question my ability (or that of the Senior Investigating team) as to how to undertake an impartial investigation is insulting at the least and evidence of a lack of experience and trust from those asking the question.

COVID-19 Response

The erosion of trust has been further enhanced by the continuous and heavy-handed police response starting in early 2020 to Covid-19, whereby we have seen hard working members of our community fined exorbitant sums of money for breaching a Chief Health Officer (CHO) direction, which is not a law, but simply a CHO directive enforceable only for the duration of an ‘Emergency Declaration’.  We have been used as the ‘big stick’ in a health response where these same hard-working citizens of our community have borne the brunt of ‘flattening the curve’, and then have been forced to undergo quarantine for weeks at a time. In Alice Springs, citizens are detained at the ‘Todd Facility’ where they have less rights and freedom than a prisoner being held in ‘G’ block or in an isolation cell at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre. The abuse of basic civil / human rights is beyond me, and I am ashamed to wear the uniform where it says that I am to ‘Serve and Protect’ the people of the Northern Territory.  The degradation of trust and the division created between the police and the public will be generational.

In the early parts of this year, I had communicated with you (COP) regarding the way in which police had been used in the Northern Territory and around Australia in relation to the Covid-19 response. This had been done via email and SMS, to which you had replied. This ended when you obviously took offence at being provided information which was not in accordance with the current public narrative and therefore had me counselled through the chain of command by an ASCOM with the instruction that I was to not communicate with you any further. I have not done so until now. This was a further erosion of that trust in the office of the Commissioner of Police.

Further, in response to the Assistant Commissioner, People & Cultural Reform, request for consultation into mask and vaccine mandates, I attach the memorandum I submitted on 05 October 2021 detailing my concern. To date I have not received any response to this memorandum, not even an acknowledgement of receipt by that office. Note also that I included the NTPA in this memorandum for which our association has been found significantly wanting by its silence on this issue until the eleventh hour. I provide it in full now for all members to see part of my thought process and decision making and why I am taking this stand.

Just for the record, I am double vaxxed, however because I am anti-mandate and am providing comfort to those who are not vaxxed, I am a tin foil hat wearing ‘Anti-Vaxxer’.  I am not an ‘Anti-Vaxxer’, I am pro choice and I believe in informed consent – the right for everyone to conduct a risk assessment of their personal circumstances and proceed if the benefit outweighs the risk.  A right that no longer appears to be an option in society.

Role of Police in Society

I now come to the role of Constables in the Northern Territory.

When I was sworn in as a Constable of Police, I did not swear an oath to the Commissioner of Police. I swore an oath as follows:

 

I (LEITH PHILLIPS) DO SWEAR – THAT – I WILL WELL AND TRULY SERVE – HER MAJESTY, QUEEN ELIZABETH THE SECOND, HER HEIRS AND SUCCESSORS – AS A MEMBER OF THE NORTHERN TERRITORY POLICE FORCE WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOUR – AFFECTION OR ILL-WILL – FROM THIS DAY UNTIL I AM LEGALLY DISCHARGED FROM THAT FORCE – THAT I WILL SEE AND CAUSE – HER MAJESTY’S PEACE TO BE KEPT AND PRESERVED – THAT I WILL PREVENT TO THE BEST OF MY POWERS – ALL OFFENCES AGAINST HER MAJESTY’S PEACE – AND AGAINST ALL LAWS IN FORCE IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY OF AUSTRALIA – AND THAT – WHILE I REMAIN A MEMBER OF THE NORTHERN TERRITORY POLICE FORCE – I WILL – TO THE BEST OF MY SKILL AND KNOWLEDGE – FAITHFULLY DISCHARGE ALL MY DUTIES ACCORDING TO LAW.
SO HELP ME GOD.

 

To be more specific, the following spells out / defines the role of a police officer in Australia:

 

THE EMPLOYMENT STATUS OF POLICE OFFICERS IN AUSTRALIA

At common law Australian police do not fall within the

employer-employee relationship.

The often-quoted authority for this proposition is Attorney-General (NSW) v Perpetual Trustee Co Ltd (1952) holds that police officers are not employees but are office-holders with “original authority” in the execution of their duties. It has been observed that because police exercise special discretionary powers derived from the law itself, a police officer is a servant to the law and not to any other authority. In addition, police officers swear an oath of office.

 

What I have witnessed in the past 12-18 months and more specifically within the last few months is the fast degeneration of the Northern Territory Police Force into ‘Rule by Law’.  The use of law as a tool for political repression and enforcing it unequally on parties with a different set of rules favouring a few sections of society. This can become an instrument of oppression and can give legitimacy to the enactment of laws which may grossly violate basic human rights.  In the Northern Territory and Australia in general, and not what it should be, the ‘Rule of Law’ is whereby all laws apply equally to all citizens of the country and no one can be above the law. It also states that no one will be subject to harsh, uncivilised, or discriminatory treatment even for the sake of maintaining law and order.

I can no longer, in good conscience, continue to be part of this descent into totalitarian ‘Rule by Law’ in this Territory. Further, the manipulation, coercion, force, and bullying tactics used in the forced standing down of good people and members of the Northern Territory Police, Fire & Emergency Service (sworn & unsworn), medical practitioners, teachers and others in the public service is simply irrational, without thought, logic or common-sense. In any other time, the actions of our executive and government would be deemed unlawful and as an abuse of office and put simply, would result in multiple counts of unlawful dismissal.

I question the conscience of Executive Management who are comfortable working in this current climate of ‘Rule by Law’? Are you happy to be part of this totalitarian regime, remember those who stood before the courts at Nuremberg? They too said what they were doing was allowable because it was the law. Those ‘laws’ were subsequently, and correctly, found to be gross breaches of human rights and so significantly wrong that many of those ’employees’ were sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

You are complicit with coercing members to receive the ‘vaccination’ under duress including members who are now suffering injuries due to the vaccine.  Duress, manipulation, and coercion is NOT consent and it equals ‘unlawful’. The demand to undergo this process to retain your employment is an example of ‘Rule by Law’.

My concerns regarding the direction that the NTPF was heading were raised and dismissed by you.  I am no longer comfortable and will not comply any longer.

Regardless of your position on vaccination, I ask all of the Senior Executive, what is your line in the sand? Where will you stop and stand and say ‘this far and no further’ in relation to your loss of freedom and the illogical mandates you are enforcing on members and the public? Remember, the CHO directions (rules) and any future changes to the law which may reflect these current discriminatory directives are the exact same rules which you and your family must also live under when you are off duty.  You Commissioned officers and those in the executive, you are not exempt.

To quote from the Holy Bible, the book of Esther, Chapter 4 verse 13 & 14, where Queen Esther (a Jew) was living in the king’s palace (some may call the 6th floor of the NAB Building the kings palace) when discriminatory decrees were being made against the Jewish population, in a way not too dissimilar to today. Her uncle came to her and said, “Do not imagine that you are safe in the king’s palace, you alone of all the Jews. Even if you now remain silent, relief and deliverance will come now to the Jews, but you and your father’s house will perish. Who knows – perhaps it was for a time like this that you became queen?”

Sincerely,

Ex-(Det.) Sgt. Leith Phillips, No. 2075

Shift Sergeant, Patrol Group 1, Alice Springs Police Station

 

 

 

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