This speech was delivered on 27/03/2014 in the NSW Upper House. You can read the full debate online here.
Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: In directing my question to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, I refer to our previous discussions and point out that many police officers, who suffered psychological injuries as a result of serving the people of New South Wales, and a number of family members of those officers contacted my office to express very real concerns about their treatment at the hands of NSW Police and its insurers, especially Metlife Insurance, and I ask: Given the vulnerability of those police officers and the needs of their families, what action is the Minister taking to address their concerns?
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: I thank Mr David Shoebridge for his question and for the opportunity to place on the record the considerations currently underway in relation to this issue. Of course the psychological and physical wellbeing of police officers and former police officers are matters that are of concern to all members of this House. As a result of comments made by Mr David Shoebridge during a radio interview, we have discussed not only the handling of those cases by the particular insurer but also the issue of suicide or attempted suicide of police officers. I took an opportunity to meet with the State Coroner to discuss the issues with him. He already had commenced an examination of literature that was available to him. As a result of our discussions, I proposed the formation of a working group comprising the NSW Police Force, the Police Association of New South Wales and the Office of the New South Wales State Coroner to examine the issue of police suicides.
It is worthy of some examination to ensure that, where we can, we have an understanding of some of the challenges that confront police officers. I congratulate the NSW Police Force, and a number of its members particularly under the guidance of Deputy Commissioner Dave Hudson who recently brought out Dr Kevin Gilmartin from the United States. Dr Gilmartin is a world-recognised behavioural scientist, as he refers to himself, specialising in law enforcement. As his book says, it is all about emotional survival for law enforcement. His book does not just apply to law enforcement. Members would find reading it worthwhile because it talks about job stresses. The important thing about Dr Gilmartin is that for 20 years he was a police officer in Tucson, Arizona, so he gets it, and I understand that quite a significant number of police officers have participated in his presentations. To assist the honourable member, I am also concerned about the issues in relation to Metlife’s handling of matters involving former police officers.
I am currently in the process of identifying the most appropriate body or process to examine the practice of Metlife in handling these cases. I know that the honourable member has on the Notice Paper a motion to conduct a parliamentary inquiry into Metlife’s handling of these matters. I am not convinced that in this case a parliamentary inquiry is the correct avenue to examine the conduct of an insurance company. I am not worried about the insurance company; I am worried about the potential impact on police officers or former police officers, and indeed their families, who will be dealing with difficulties that have come about as a result of their years of experience in the Police Force, coming before a parliamentary inquiry and perhaps being subjected to cross-examination in relation to their claims or cases. I am not convinced that that is the right way to go, but I am genuinely looking at a process by which Metlife’s conduct in relation to these matters can be at least considered in light of the allegations that have been raised with the Hon. David Shoebridge, and I thank him for the opportunity to elucidate. If members have further questions I suggest they place them on notice.