OPINION: A massive overhaul of the NT Police system is urgently needed, writes former NT Police officer Carey Joy. With so much damage done operationally and to morale already, he continues, the Gunner Government needs to take drastic action or there needs to be a federal intervention, or Royal Commission before another officer kills themselves.
In light of recent media attention regarding NT Police staffing issues and further tragic reports of more NT Police suicide, more needs to be done, and more members, current and former, need to stand up to have this discussed urgently.
I was a policing veteran of over 15 years service in the NT, federally and overseas, with the majority of my service, about 12 years, being in the NT Police Force. I was on the exact same squad as Mark Casey in 2000 and can vouch for his personal integrity without question.
Therefore, I can accurately state after observing the current NT Police executive, that I have never seen a more dysfunctional and unsupportive management team in my life in any field of employment, and I pray fellow officers do not have to endure this for much longer.
How much longer must we all endure such blatant examples of bullying, allegations of corruption and misconduct by the NT Police executive before someone steps in and puts an end to this, before more families are destroyed or more lives are lost?
Policing is one of the most high-risk forms of employment. I hate to also confirm it, but after working in other states, territories, and countries; the NT has the highest rate of assaults and deaths that our officers have to respond to than any other jurisdiction per capita.
The workload per officer in the NT is also the highest required of any officer in policing that I have ever experienced. Our officers, especially in central Australia will from their very first shift, be dealing with some of the most horrific crimes and death scenes that you would ever want to imagine.
This is why a supportive and professional leadership group is absolutely essential for members’ mental and physical health. However, since the commencement of Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker’s reign we have seen the majority of the staff support networks crushed and replaced with bullying tactics and intense micromanagement from his driven executive team who are so far removed from the team environment mentality that it is simply terrifying.
We are now watching as the NT Police force has now seen three officers take their own lives just this year, which is absolutely unheard of and upsetting. We have also never seen so many staff on sick leave, stress leave, resigned, transferred to other jurisdictions during Mr Chalker’s reign, than we have ever seen in the history of the NT Police force.
I have also been told by a senior detective in Darwin that the reason we never heard of a COVID-19 pandemic strain starting with the letter “C” is because that was already been assigned to the “Chalker” strain, a pandemic which is destroying the NT Police force.
We all need to remember that the job of being a police officer is isolating: it generally removes you from your normal friend groups; your usual support groups as you are constantly doing shift work; you are called out for emergencies; you can’t get regular leave; you are constantly transferred to different locations; you miss birthdays, weddings, funerals, and Christmas gatherings, etc, etc.
So your new family and friend groups become your work colleagues as you drift further away from your normal friends.
You also begin to find it difficult to relate to what would be your normal friend groups. As the things you see at work, and need to deal with, are generally not fit for everyday consumption. And we tend to keep these discussions within ourselves, or for discussions with fellow colleagues who understand what you are dealing with.
This is why once your internal police family network now appears to be unsupportive, you are now being constantly attacked from within, you are forced to agree with the executive no matter what is asked of you, or you will be punished. If you speak your mind, or express values which may differ from your bosses, or refuse a new medical procedure (like many other professions), you could be charged and lose your job.
Since Mr Chalker began his reign, he has implemented attacks on senior staff. It appeared he wanted all staff who were not simply yes men to be removed and replaced with younger new constables who will always say yes and not question any directions. There were also halts put on the return of senior NT Police personnel who had resigned and applied to come back. Even during the extreme staff shortages and pandemic emergencies all experienced officers who applied for re-employment were knocked back.
Mr Chalker began enforcing “management initiated transfers”, forcing staff and their families out of regions for no other reason then he believed they had been there too long. Some officers just resigned as they did not want to pull their children from school and move them to a remote location or another region. Staff in specialist sections who had been there for three years or more were also forced to move out of the section and into other roles just to unsettle them.
In Alice Springs all senior sergeants were told they were also going to be moved to other regions and locations. A section of this group however began industrial action against these mandatory relocations. This process caused extensive delays, so Mr Chalker decided to halt the transfers, and directed all the senior sergeants to pack up their desks and rotated them all to different jobs within the same region for no other reason than to satisfy his ego.
We have seen the current executive initiate and commence the biggest witch hunt we have ever seen when Constable Zach Rolfe was charged. All officers involved knew he was not guilty of murder as all investigators know murder requires pre-meditation before you can be charged with such an offence.
They watched as special task forces were setup to try and find anything to charge Constable Rolfe with, including texts to other officers. They observed as the NT Police executive spent over $100,000 to hire someone from overseas who was willing to agree with them that Constable Rolfe had done the wrong thing, as no one in Australia would agree.
Heaps of them were also charged internally for contacting Constable Rolfe just to see how we was enduring these hard times.
They have also now seen their management team lie in public forums, press releases, and some very questionable testimony in the recent criminal trial of Constable Rolfe, yet not one of them has been subject to any form of punishment. Yet if you had sent Constable Rolfe a text saying, “ Hi mate hope you’re well”, bang, you would be pulled in by the executive and face disciplinary action over it.
Officers have also seen their executive charge them with misconduct at the drop of a hat, yet the bosses have a multitude of allegations against them that go nowhere. So the general officers feel a massive wall between themselves and their executive leaders.
Members have reported to me there have been executive officers facing allegations of, but not limited to:
- Charging private people to attend classes they ran at a gym which was provided free to police officers in Katherine.
- Having relationships with recruits in the college.
- Two executive officers having affairs with a human resources staff member who was the wife of another general duties officer.
- Executive officers’ children being fired from the police college as recruits yet another boss steps in and has them brought back without question
- Executive officers giving their family members positions of high-level promotions without passing through any form of promotional gateways
- Executive officers being live on Facebook calling the collective noun of police officers a “murder”.
The members have seen all of this occur yet not one executive was subject to any form of internal discipline charges, other than the two with the alleged affair with the member from HR. One resigned, and the other was transferred to a deputy director of another major NT Government department.
So when our officers have their own management teams attack them, and continue to bully, threaten, and scare them with loss of employment if they don’t follow their directions, how are these officers to seek any form of support?
Their friends have been replaced with other police so their normal networks are gone, and they can’t speak honestly within their ranks for fear of reprisals.
We have also seen some members suffer severe adverse reactions to their COVID-19 injections, yet the department continues to force them to have more shots. Even if you submit documents stating you don’t want to have another shot as the last one caused you myocarditis, this is not accepted and these officers have also been stood down.
We also saw at one of the funerals for an active serving police officer who took his own life, the executive were asked by the member’s family not to attend due to them not being welcome.
However, the executive still turned up, and at the conclusion of the funeral they began ringing some of the officers who had made speeches at the funeral, and berated them as they made mention of the individual having some workplace issues.
This is the level of absolute arrogance the current executive have, that they would ring grieving members after a funeral and attack them for the content of their speech at their friend’s funeral service.
The members are also being left behind by the NT Police Association, who will not assist any member with COVID-19 related issues, the legal firm attached to the NTPA will, in writing, state they are not allowed to discuss mandates with staff.
They will not assist you if it means fighting the executive, which we have seen time and time again, and the NTPA president will actually conduct media statements in support of the NT executive and claim its social media’s fault.
The main issue highlighted here is again, the NTPA president is still a serving police officer, so he also knows if he loses this position he is back in uniform and back 100 per cent under Mr Chalker’s control.
Something needs to be done and fast. We need a massive overhaul of the NT Police system urgently. This is so far out of control now with the damage that is being done that drastic action is needed by our Territory government, or a federal intervention, or Royal Commission before we see another loss of life.
We all need to remember that, now the age of recruitment is back to 18-years-old, we have teenagers facing this stress and work environment.
These teenagers generally do not bring with them significant life experience, trades or backgrounds in relation to dealing with the actual work you will do as a police officer.
I fear we are going to have a lot of younger people suffering intense PTSD, mental health issues and lifelong damage if they continue to be employed in such an environment.
We need urgent action and we need it now.
Carey Joy was recruited by the NT Police in 2000, and has worked in general duties, remote postings, the drug squad, juvenile crime, social order response, and in general crime whilst in the drug squad. His career was spent largely in the Territory Response Group, and working as a senior bomb technician. Mr Joy was also a federal agent in the Tactical Response Team, which was a national and international police tactical group working on deployments around Australia and overseas. His last five years in law enforcement were in Alice springs with the NT Police as a general duties shift sergeant and bomb technician for the Central region. Mr Joy resigned in May 2016, and started his own business to spend more time with his children.