Four New South Wales police officers have launched legal action, claiming they were targeted by an internal drug investigation, simply because they were gay.
The officers, who were stationed at the Newtown Police Station in Sydney, are taking the action in the state’s civil and administrative tribunal, accusing senior officers of sexuality discrimination.
Serving officers Christopher Sheehy, Steven Rapisarda and Shane Housego, and former officer Christian McDonald want compensation and an apology from NSW Police.
Court documents reveal the men were targeted simply because they went to gay bars, which led to a “genuine concern” that they were of “loose morals” and were therefore involved in illegal drug taking.
The drug operation was ordered by Newtown Police Station Commander, Superintendent Simon Hardman, who, in an extraordinary statement, wrote:
“George, Christian and Christopher are notorious for their promiscuity. Drug use is thought to be fundamental in such indiscriminate sexual encounters.”
Superintendent Hardman noted in his statement there was no direct evidence to suggest the officers had taken illicit drugs, but still insisted there be an investigation.
“Even in the absence of evidence, I retain a genuine concern the group is actively involved in recreational/illegal drug use.”
An eight-person strike force, codenamed Andro, took six months to establish that there was no evidence of any drug taking or wrongdoing by the officers.
In affidavits, the four officers described a culture of homophobia, which they said was fostered by senior management at Newtown Police Station.
McDonald said after being taken to hospital with head injuries sustained after hitting his head on pavement, a manger remarked that he “should be used to having your head down arse up in the concrete.”
When he requested annual leave for his same-sex wedding anniversary, he says he was told by a superior, “Same sex marriage is not okay with me. It disgusts me.”
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Discrimination Claims, said he was gobsmacked that an investigation was ever ordered in the first place.
“This is called ‘guilt by association’, and fails every test of basic policing and investigating,” he said.
“You have got to ask, why on earth would this Superintendent insist on investigating these men for taking drugs – when he admitted that the only evidence he had was that they went to gay clubs – that’s hardly evidence.
“He also made the assumption – wrongly – that gay people who have lots of sex take illegal drugs – I would like to know on what basis he made such an offensive and false observation.
“Unlawful discrimination is when someone is treated less favourably because of an attribute like their sexuality, and while the tribunal is yet to rule on this matter, it would seem to me that these men have a compelling case.”
Today in closing submissions, lawyers for the NSW Police urged the tribunal not to be “hypersensitive” in considering their decision whether the men were discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality.
The case has been running since October and will not conclude until August, when lawyers for the four officers will present their closing submissions.
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