Monday, October 12, 2009

The force of corruption again

Police whistleblower sent home, told to see psychiatrist. No time for integrity among the Queensland police hierarchy. Is Terry Lewis back?

A VETERAN officer who has exposed cronyism and corruption in the police force has been ordered off work even though his doctor says he is fit for duty. Sergeant Robbie Munn – who wants to resume his decorated 30-year career – says the service has a culture that deters whistleblowers from reporting "dirty little secrets".

The police force claims Sgt Munn, who has fully recovered from heart surgery, requires psychiatric help and has ordered him off the job for 18 months. Sgt Munn's treatment has prompted serving officers to speak out, claiming he is being shunned because he is seen as "dangerous because he stands up for the truth". Sgt Munn, who was in charge of 70 police officers at Maroochydore, has revealed:

• Police cheated on promotion exams by plagiarising and paying others to complete their work.

• He unsuccessfully tried to reform rosters at the Maroochydore watchhouse after becoming concerned at some work practices. A year later, two officers were charged and eventually jailed for taking advantage of female prisoners.

• The anti-corruption watchdog made a rare decision to overturn a police appointment and install Sgt Munn after he was overlooked for promotion.

"There's a culture within the service to avoid accountability for management practices. There are a lot of dirty little secrets," Sgt Munn said. "A lot of your rank and file would come forward but they have seen what has happened to previous whistleblowers."

The Police Service has been accused of "doctor shopping" psychiatrists to block his return and refusing to provide a rehab program for the officer. Sgt Munn is on paid leave and says he has received more than $100,000 in the past 18 months from a police sick leave fund. Sgt Munn says the fund is meant for other officers "with genuine medical problems". "The harassment is continuing even though I'm not at work. I'm not ready to retire. I've spent 30 years of my life helping the community and there is value in me being able to do that," Sgt Munn said.

The QPS refuses to answer questions about Sgt Munn, former officer-in-charge of the Dayboro and Maroochydore police stations. Commissioner Bob Atkinson has been on leave this week. "The QPS is currently seeking medical information to determine (Sgt Munn's) fitness and ability to undertake the role of a police officer," a police spokeswoman said.

Evie, his wife, said her husband had been "honest to his own detriment" for speaking out years ago against fraudulent promotion practices, drawing the ire of supervisors and those involved in the rort.

Sgt Munn has arrested hundreds of criminals, had his jaw broken and a knife held to his chest. But he said criminals would be "envious" of shady activities within the force.

Queensland Police Union general secretary Mick Barnes said Sgt Munn was a victim of "bastardisation" in the force. "It highlights the mindset within many senior QPS officers who are unable to agree to disagree," he said.

Maroochydore's Sgt John Saez, a 37-year veteran, said he knows of no reason why Sgt Munn shouldn't be working. He said Sgt Munn was an intelligent supervisor "always looking out for the welfare of his troops" and was quick to suggest reforms to the force. "I honestly think they think Robbie is a dangerous fellow. Because he stands up for the truth, they want him out," Sgt Saez said. "If you buck the system, they put your name up on the wall with a black mark on it."

Sgt Munn's problems began in 1996 when he was wrongly denied a promotion at Dayboro. He took the matter to the then Criminal Justice Commission, which found in his favour.

In 2002, Sgt Munn blew the whistle on corruption within the promotion system of QPS. He found evidence of officers paying for answers to promotion tests, prompting an ethics investigation that led to the police service installing plagiarism software.

In 2005, when he was in charge of Maroochydore watchhouse, he suggested reforms to the roster system after becoming suspicious of shift requests from some officers. His suggestion of a larger rotation was vetoed. The following year, it was revealed officers had been sexually assaulting female inmates. Two officers were jailed over more than 20 charges and several others resigned.

"One of my motivations is to improve the lot of other officers. They might think if I can stand up against a corrupt system, they can too and it will make it better for them," Sgt Munn said. "I've got the runs on the board for doing that. If I can bring it out, maybe it won't happen to others. "Regardless of what they say, I can still hold my head up high."

Sgt Munn believes he was victimised after his whistleblowing by officers who made unsubstantiated complaints against him. He took stress leave and later had heart surgery and now the QPS refuses to take him back. The QPS made Sgt Munn visit one of its consulting psychiatrists, Petros Markou, who has suggested he return to work with a rehab plan that the QPS has yet to develop. Dr Markou said Sgt Munn's challenging of the police selection panel for the Dayboro position sparked retaliation.


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