Police have been swamped with allegations made by paramedics about their colleagues following the ambulance commissioner’s invitation to staff to report criminal conduct to the police.
NSW Ambulance acting chief executive David Dutton wrote to a former paramedic who runs a support group for emergency workers last week encouraging his members to contact him with allegations of misconduct and police with allegations of criminal conduct.
The former paramedic, Steve McDowell, had raised concerns with Mr Dutton about systemic bullying within NSW Ambulance and allegations of criminal offences ranging from death threats to rape.
Mr Dutton encouraged paramedics to outline to police the specifics of their allegations.
But within hours of Mr McDowell posting to his Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon the name of the police officer that ambulance workers were asked to contact with their allegations, Leichhardt Area Command was inundated with complaints.
The police constable who had been named as the contact point emailed Mr McDowell at 9pm asking that his name be removed from the page.
“I am a general duties constable and therefore I do not have the time or resources to deal with all of these cases,” the constable said.
A NSW Police spokesman said Leichhardt Local Area Command had received “a number of phone calls” from paramedics, but none had made a formal report.
“The NSW Police force encourages all victims of crime to report matters to their local police,” a spokesman said.
Mr McDowell said 30 paramedics had informed him that they intended to report criminal conduct perpetrated by their colleagues, including incidents that occurred decades ago.
“Some have been physically assaulted, some have had death threats to themselves and their families, there’s been rape at various locations in NSW ambulance stations and quite aggressive bullying and harassment,” Mr McDowell said.
Mr Dutton told Mr McDowell that NSW Ambulance took all allegations seriously but unless further details were supplied, such complaints could not be adequately investigated.
“Your emails raise serious allegations including ‘systemic sexual assault’ and threats of violence,” Mr Dutton wrote.
“Although you have provided scant information, I am obliged to report these matters to NSW Police and have made arrangements to do so today.
“However, providing allegations without detail has the potential to impact adversely on any subsequent assessment and investigation, spread misinformation, undermine confidentiality principles and to cause significant distress to staff who may be named or otherwise identified but unable to respond properly and in line with principles of procedural fairness.”
Earlier this month, Ambulance NSW advised a member of the support group that she was being investigated for misconduct over a comment she posted on the Facebook page, which might have breached the social media policy.
NSW Ambulance said in a statement that when it received allegations of a criminal nature against current or former paramedics they were referred to police, and if an allegation was referred to police the service was unable to comment.
“NSW Ambulance has a comprehensive suite of staff support options, including a Peer Support Program, non-denominational chaplains, Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Grievance Contact Officers and a Health and wellness program,” the statement said.
Reproduced from SMH