Queensland police evading their reponsibilities for injuries they cause
CIVIL courts in Queensland appear destined to decide parameters for the duty of care owed by government to frontline emergency personnel injured in the line of duty following action taken by former Toowoomba police officer Sue Stalling.
Ms Stalling, 49, was retired medically unfit on December 4 after 12 years in the Queensland Police Service. On March 8, 2007, while engaged in firearm training, she was thrown to the floor by a colleague. Her hamstring was ruptured below the right buttock.
The injury required surgery to correct, but Ms Stalling now has limited mobility, cannot sit for long periods and is unable to run.
Her health problems were exacerbated when she was diagnosed on May 29, 2008, with oesophagus cancer, the treatment of which also required surgery.
Ms Stalling said she was forced to have extended periods away from work to recover, but had been left with a psychological problem arising from the training incident. Her main complaint was that she wanted a gradual return to her former position as a constable at the Toowoomba watch-house, but that was not offered. Instead she was given a job looking after the main counter, dealing with the public.
That required her repeatedly standing and sitting. "I was just asking for a position where I wasn't in pain," Ms Stalling said.
"On one occasion I was told to come back to work on Christmas Eve despite my doctor at the time issuing a certificate to say I was not to work.
"I am not going public about this for any gain for myself, but I want known the way I was treated so that no other police officer is treated in the same uncaring manner.
"Since my injury I have had a number of police contact me and tell me how they were treated in a similar way to what I have been, and they were forced out, too.
"The Queensland Police Service will do anything to help an officer if the blame for the injury can be attributed to something, or someone, outside, but if there is some responsibility to be taken because the cause of the injury was internal to the service, they do all within their power to evade their responsibilities."
Deputy Commissioner Kathy Rynders yesterday said there was a thorough investigation of the complaints lodged by Ms Stalling regarding her treatment by managers overseeing her rehabilitation and her return to work. "The service has a structured and well-defined rehabilitation policy which seeks to return injured members to meaningful and productive duties wherever possible," Ms Rynders said.
"The civilianisation of the service over recent years has meant that many non-operational positions which were available for police are now filled by non-sworn personnel. "Unfortunately, we were not able to identify such a position in this instance."
Ms Stalling yesterday said her legal representatives had prepared a claim against the police service in regard to the injury she received at training and the subsequent stress she has undergone and she expected it to be lodged soon.