The New South Wales Police Force has formally apologised to state Greens MP Jenny Leong, after she sued the organisation over a series of sexist and racist posts made online by officers in 2016.
Ms Leong launched the legal action late last year under the Racial Discrimination Act.
Yesterday, NSW Police released the following public response:
“In December 2017, NSW Police Force made sustained findings including that the off-duty conduct had taken place and took disciplinary action against some of the officers. The NSW Police Force has apologised to Ms Leong.”
The public apology was part of a confidential settlement reached between Ms Leong and NSW Police.
During 2016, Ms Leong championed a campaign by the Greens to end the use of drug sniffer dogs in New South Wales.
She was subsequently attacked online with a series of offensive comments.
An investigation revealed the posts were made and liked by dozens of police officers across the city, including senior management.
In one Facebook post about the sniffer dogs, sergeant Jack Zaineddine wrote an offensive comment before changing his profile picture to the one used by Ms Leong.
In an effort to mock Ms Leong’s ethnicity, who identifies as a Chinese-Australian, Mr Zaineddine wrote comments stating “Nawww tank u hunny…2 dolla sucky sucky lub u long time” and “ob course…Money cheap cheap”.
In another post, Mr Zaineddine called her father a “swamp monkey”.
After being suspended, Mr Zaineddine returned to the force and later served in a higher role.
Another 10 officers were investigated by the Police Integrity Commission.
The legal action
Ms Leong launched the legal action in November 2018, because the NSW Police Force refused to explain what action had been taken against the officers involved, and what it was doing to prevent further incidences.
Along with an apology, Ms Leong was also seeking compensation, police files regarding her complaint, mandated penalties for social media abuse by police and a declaration that the officers had acted in an unlawful, racist way.
“As the Member for Newtown, I can say though I am absolutely committed to the campaign against the use of sniffer dogs in NSW and will continue to call out racism where I see it, particularly when it comes to those in powerful positions in our society,” she said.
NSW Police said that a training package will also be developed to combat the issue.
“The NSW Police Force does not condone or tolerate any form of discrimination whether the conduct occurs on or off duty, and all officers have a legal obligation to report misconduct. Failure to do so can result in disciplinary action,” it said in a statement.
What the experts say
Miles Heffernan from Discrimination Claims said the behaviour of police was completely unacceptable.
“Not only were these posts extremely offensive, they were also juvenile,” he said.
“If these officers had worked for any other organisation, they would have almost certainly been sacked.”
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If you have experienced discrimination based on your race or ethnic background, you may be entitled to compensation.
Please call Discrimination Claims today on
1300 853 837.
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