Former Sergeant of the NSW Police Force of 24 years, Wesley Parfitt has filed a statement of claim for compensation against the NSW Police Force. Court documents filed in the District Court name several senior former and current NSW Police officers and make many allegations involving Police conduct and safety that were reported up the Police chain of command. In reporting issues to his chain of command, a senior Police officer Superintendent Tim Beattie alleges that Mr Parfitt upward bullied his Commander Superintendent Joe Cassar.
The now Assistant Commissioner Joe Cassar, leading the Professional Standards Command and responsible for ethical conduct across the Police Force is named and purportedly made a 7 page signed statement regarding his time as Commander, Shoalhaven Local Area Command.
The now Superintendent Tim Beattie is named and purportedly made a 9 page statement regarding his time as Commander, Shoalhaven Local Area Command following the transfer of the then Superintendent Cassar. Regarding these statements, which have been served on Mr Parfitt, and other court documents filed, it is alleged that: -
There are alleged breaches of policy involving the deployment of inexperienced Probationary Constables, alone, in high risk situations, including being exposed to psychosocial hazards such as not being trained and experienced for the work duties required to be performed.
Mr Parfitt and other officers allegedly experienced a repeated issue at Shoalhaven LAC involving an inability to locate and sight the firearms of other officers not currently on duty, and that this alleged issue is allegedly referred to in the purported statements of senior Police, filed and served on Mr Parfitt.
Superintendent Tim Beattie purportedly in a 9 page statement allegedly believes that Mr Parfitt’s complaints and reports involving the conduct of the then Superintendent Cassar and his Command and the health of Mr Parfitt were “nothing more than a payback situation and directed at Superintendent Cassar”. Superintendent Beattie allegedly said in a statement that, “the suggestion is that Sgt Parfitt is out to find any failure in the Senior Management Team, in particular Superintendent Cassar, in abiding by policy and procedure. In my view, his (Mr Parfitt) behaviour could be considered as upward bullying towards Superintendent Cassar.”
Points of interest: -
- What is the alleged payback situation?
- Why is the alleged payback allegedly directed at the now Assistant Commissioner Cassar?
- Why is it allegedly considered “upward bullying”?
- Why is the alleged bullying allegedly directed at the now Assistant Commissioner Cassar?
- Why would the NSW Police Force allegedly not welcome nor meaningfully engage in the reporting of failings in the Senior Management Team and its Commanders?
- Why would the NSW Police Force allegedly not want to and be required to abide by policy and procedure?
- What is the mindset, motives or rationale of Senior Police Officers’?
It is alleged that despite these Senior Police Officers’ description of the reporting of issues or incidents of workplace safety, health and welfare including of Mr Parfitt, as an alleged “payback situation” and “upward bullying”, the Professional Standards with which Assistant Commissioner Cassar is now in Command of and responsible for, requires NSW police officers on page 5 of the Professional Standards Booklet that “it is your responsibility to ensure that you present yourself for work fit to carry out your duties. If you are aware of any health concerns or other impairments that may impede your fitness for duty, you must report your concerns to your supervisor. Similarly, if you believe another employee is unfit for duty you must report your concerns to your supervisor.” Mr Parfitt allegedly reported his concerns to Senior Police Management and Superintendent Beattie has allegedly labelled a report of these welfare/health concerns as “nothing more than a payback situation…”
Despite Mr Parfitt allegedly on multiple occasions reporting his concerns about his own health and welfare to Senior Police Management in accordance with the above NSW Police policy, and allegedly being assessed on multiple occasions by the Police Medical Officer, the defence to Mr Parfitt’s claim alleges that Mr Parfitt is liable for his alleged injuries for failing to seek a second medical opinion.
It is also alleged that due to heightened terrorism levels and officer safety alerts that Mr Parfitt identified instances where unarmed police and civilian staff worked in the public access areas at the front of the Nowra Police Station and that Mr Parfitt allegedly reported these incidences including incidents he himself had witnessed. Senior Police Management allegedly informally counselled Mr Parfitt over this practice. Mr Parfitt alleges that he had a workplace safety obligation and responsibility to protect unarmed police staff working in the front of Nowra Police Station. Mr Parfitt allegedly appealed to the former Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys in his earlier role as Assistant Commissioner, Southern Region Commander regarding his ability and responsibility to report safety incidents at Nowra Police Station. In denying that appeal, it is alleged that the former Assistant Commissioner Worboys incorrectly interpreted and applied NSW Police policy, and found that Mr Parfitt could not make a workplace safety incident notification (P902 form) without the consent of the involved officers. This restriction is what the then Superintendent Cassar allegedly says he put in place for Mr Parfitt. It was in this alleged context that Assistant Commissioner Cassar allegedly states in his 7 page statement that he discussed with Mr Parfitt a number of safety incident notification reports and breaches of policy that Mr Parfitt had reported and “I also put to him (Sgt Parfitt) that I have been made aware that he had made open comments to other officers within the Command that it was his intention to bog management down in paper work”. In a purported 7 page statement, Assistant Commissioner Cassar allegedly states that Mr Parfitt “was provided informal counselling which included advice and guidance” by Assistant Commissioner Cassar.
- What is the mindset, belief, motives and response of Senior Police Officer(s)?
It is also alleged that the NSW Police Policies, including the Code of Conduct and Ethics and the Standards of Professional Conduct, decided by former Deputy Commissioner Worboys in Mr Parfitt’s appeal do not comply with law and are now the Command responsibility of Assistant Commissioner Cassar as the Commander, Professional Standards Command.
On the aspect of officer safety at Nowra Police Station, Mr Parfitt feels vindicated by an event on 7 September 2018 when a car drove from the street, across the park and forecourt, and up to the front doors of Nowra Police Station. Calls were made for bollards and other safety measures to be provided to the public access areas of the Police Station.
There are alleged breaches, including past examples, of custody management related law and policy, prisoner rights and safety. Mr Parfitt both reported the issues and examples he had identified to the then Superintendent Cassar, and complained to the Ombudsman NSW. The complaint to the Ombudsman NSW was referred to Chief Inspector Mark Howard of Southern Region, NSW Police Force to investigate Superintendent Cassar and the issues reported. In the documents, Mr Parfitt referred to 38 year old Kevin Norris, whose death occurred in police custody at Bowral Police Station after being tasered by Police in January 2015. It is alleged that Chief Inspector Mark Howard spoke to Mr Parfitt and informed him that there would be no issue with the conduct of police surrounding Kevin Norris’ death. It is alleged that Superintendent Cassar by email informed Mr Parfitt that no issue about the conduct of Police had been raised to date surrounding Kevin Norris’ death. It is alleged that in investigating Mr Parfitt’s complaint, Chief Inspector Mark Howard took no action in relation to Kevin Norris’ death and the similar prisoner custody arrangements that existed at Nowra Police Station. Media reports, e.g. ABC News 27 Oct 2017 suggest that the “Coroner condemns police and paramedics over ice death in custody at Bowral”; It is alleged that Chief Inspector Mark Howard investigated the complaints and custody issues raised by Mr Parfitt involving the then Superintendent Cassar and Shoalhaven LAC and determined that they were not sustained. In doing so, it is alleged that Chief Inspector Mark Howard described Mr Parfitt as “disingenuous”. This is despite the then Superintendent Cassar allegedly admitting in an email to Mr Parfitt that whilst there was a risk assessment of the custody of prisoners, he had no best practice risk assessment tool in place and he had placed responsibility for obtaining a best practice risk assessment tool on local Police Association representatives.
It is also alleged that Mr Parfitt was asked by Inspector Robert Vergano at Shoalhaven LAC to conduct a risk assessment of escaped prisoner Jason Rees who fled handcuffed from corrective services custody at Wollongong Hospital on 2 March 2017. It is alleged that Mr Parfitt formulated an extreme risk assessment of Jason Rees including the risk of the use of firearms by Jason Rees, and that that risk assessment was allegedly ignored by Senior Police at Shoalhaven LAC. Mr Parfitt allegedly complained to Chief Inspector Mark Howard, Southern Region Professional Standards Manager about this. Mr Jason Rees was arrested several days later after allegedly wounding a man in the back and severing several fingers with an axe. “Again, I feel vindicated by the risk assessment I made of Jason Rees”, Mr Parfitt said.
Former Commissioner Andrew Scipione in 2006 put in place a now long standing policy and direction to NSW Police that Probationary Constables in the early weeks of their policing career should be chaperoned by other senior officers for all officer’s welfare and safety. Mr Parfitt allegedly reported that this did not occur on two occasions at Shoalhaven LAC in 2015. In allegedly attempting to clarify the former Superintendent Cassar’s Command’s adherence to this policy, it is alleged that Superintendent Beattie referred to Mr Parfitt as acting “mischievously” and was “attempting to compile evidence that Superintendent Cassar is not complying with policy”.
- What is motivating the Senior Officers of the NSW Police Force?
- In the alleged conduct is there serious maladministration, (defined as ‘conduct of a serious nature that is unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory, or arises wholly or in part from improper motives’) such that the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission should investigate?
Mr Parfitt said, “The NSW Police Force has served statements allegedly of the then Superintendent Cassar and Superintendent Beattie. Having been served these statements, it is my belief that they allegedly frustrated and buried my attempts to effectively raise officer and community safety concerns, including the alleged unsafe, high risk deployment of Probationary Constables and the alleged unethical conduct of my Commander, Superintendent Cassar in failing to comply with a lawful direction from his superior officer. Superintendent Cassar is now in charge of ethical and Professional Standards for the NSW Police Force.”
He also said, “In a competitive recruitment environment where the NSW Police Force has to offer a $3000 financial boost to police recruits while they are studying on campus and the level of recruitment is not meeting demand, the Police Force needs to retain existing officers and protect them from psychological injury. New recruits are particularly vulnerable, and all reasonable steps should be taken to protect them. So, if there is a policy and direction that Probationary Constables must be chaperoned by senior officers during the first weeks of a Probationary Constable’s career, it should be adhered to without excuse. I’m sure that Parents who see their children join the NSW Police Force, expect the NSW Police Force to take reasonable steps to protect them, including complying with policies and directions in place to protect them and other officers.”
Former Commissioner Michael Fuller is alleged to have made a public statement reported in the Daily Telegraph about the psychological impacts of policing and the need to build police officer’s resilience to the nature of police duties and to psychological injury.
The nature of police duties and a police officer’s claim for compensation may be impacted by the High Court decision in Kozarov v State of Victoria  HCA 12.
Mr Parfitt allegedly reported safety concerns to the Safework NSW Nowra Office who then allegedly spoke with Senior Police Management at Shoalhaven Local Area Command. Allegedly no apparent changes were made to the policing operations at Shoalhaven Local Area Command as a result.
During his 24 years service, Mr Parfitt carried out general policing duties, as well as prosecuting and legal roles including workers compensation and civil liability. Mr Parfitt qualified as a Police Prosecutor in 1999 and as a Solicitor in 2006. He had a high level of expertise to identify, manage and report risks to policing operations including giving legal advice to operational police whilst performing duty in the Operational Legal Advice Unit, Police Prosecutions Command.
Mr Parfitt had been working at the Australian Taxation Office for four years 2013-2017, in addition to his fulltime policing role, before being allegedly psychologically injured from his work as a Police Officer. In 2017, once Mr Parfitt had allegedly suffered a psychological injury and ceased working as a Police Officer, the NSW Police Force allegedly by an order from Senior Police Officer(s) restricted Mr Parfitt from engaging in other employment, including working at the ATO. This allegedly was despite a recommendation, from the NSW Police Force workers compensation insurer EML’s selected Independent Medical Examining Psychiatrist Dr Peter Young, that his employment at the ATO be opened as a rehabilitation pathway for Mr Parfitt. It is unknown why the NSW Police Force allegedly did not allow this recommended rehabilitation pathway for Mr Parfitt, and instead discharged Mr Parfitt from the Police Force after 24 years of service in September 2018. “Police officer welfare, and safety and welfare in general, ought to be of paramount concern for the NSW Police Force”, Mr Parfitt said.
When Mr Parfitt allegedly reported an internal grievance about alleged bullying, harassment, and the performance assessment he had received from a Detective Inspector, Superintendent Cassar and later Superintendent Tim Beattie allegedly rejected this grievance as unfounded without resolving the grievance. This allegation was allegedly listed as one of the reasons why Mr Parfitt submitted his resignation in 2014. In allegedly rescinded his resignation Mr Parfitt in a written report referred to previous and new written formal internal grievances and workplace concerns he had raised or was raising about Senior Police Management that had been unresolved. “Even now I allege that those written formal internal grievances I had raised with Senior Police Management about Senior Police Management were never resolved, and I allege that both, Assistant Commissioner Cassar and Superintendent Beattie in their respective 7 and 9 page statements, admit that my written formal internal grievances were dismissed as unfounded, and hence allegedly never appropriately addressed,” Mr Parfitt said. However, in accepting Mr Parfitt’s rescinding of his resignation, it is alleged the then Superintendent Cassar supported a transfer of Mr Parfitt should Mr Parfitt seek one. It is alleged that Mr Parfitt submitted two applications to transfer to the Police Prosecutions Command for which he was qualified and experienced, and which duties would be significantly less traumatic. Those transfers were allegedly denied.
Related to Police Officer welfare, NSW District Court Judge Gibson on Monday 31 July 2023 gave judgment in another New South Wales Police officer welfare case, https://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/decision/1898bb695acc351731a32732
Paul v State of New South Wales  NSWDC 277.
Mr Parfitt’s claim is next listed before the Wollongong District Court on 4 December 2023.
Given the purported statements from Assistant Commissioner Cassar and Superintendent Beattie, they may be called as the first two witnesses in Mr Parfitt’s case against the NSW Police Force should his claim go to hearing/trial.