Bullying in the police: Victim asked if she had 'period troubles'

7:02 am on 23 September 2019

A victim of bullying in the police was asked by a senior sergeant whether her complaints could be put down to her period.

Police generic

File photo. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

She said it was then she realised nobody in the police was willing to take bullying complaints seriously.

Police reject claims that bullying is widespread in the organisation.

Isolated from her work group by a co-worker who essentially ignored her for months on end, the former detective constable decided it was finally time to complain.

That was after another co-worker who had recently left the unit, made a complaint on her behalf saying the treatment of her needed to improve.

She said the complaints were brushed away by her bosses, and she was made to feel like she was the problem.

"It was the senior sergeant who asked, is the reason that you're so upset, is it because you've got period troubles?

"Which obviously wasn't the case.

"I was just frustrated, frustrated and angry because it just made me realise that my problem was not going to get resolved."

She is one of three women who have told RNZ they were asked about their period when they complained of bullying.

Sixty-one people have now spoken to us about what they say is widespread bullying in the police.

In this case, the former officer said a colleague refused to talk to her, which left her in fear for her life when attending high risk firearms jobs.

"I'd be talking to my colleague and trying to find out, you know, what firearm do you want to have, we need to go through F61 which is the use of firearms, you know, it's a legal requirement every time you tool up with firearms in the police.

"I'd be trying to talk about our approach, you know. Who was going to deal with who or deal with the situation as it was evolving, and I would get absolute silence from him."

She said her co-worker would later claim nothing was wrong, and her managers believed him.

They thought her issues were made up.

"I was obviously asking him a number of times, what's the problem?

"He would either say nothing's wrong, it's my imagination, or he would just say I didn't hear you in the police car, which is absolute rubbish."

After breaking down when seeking help from the Police Association, the officer was told to take stress leave by an association representative.

But she was then told her police career, one she had wanted since she was a child, was all but over.

"After, I think it was a week or two, the association rep, he flat out said to me, 'well, really, once cops go on stress leave, they don't go back. They're not really given an option to go back, and nothing's going to change'.

"He was really clear that the situation for me, if I went back into the job it wouldn't change, and his advice was to start job hunting.

"The sad thing is, he was right."

The more than 60 people RNZ has talked to said the police protect people in the so called "boys' club".

If you are not in the club, they said your chances of being bullied increase, while your chances of earning a job promotion plummets.

That was backed up by the results of a workplace survey question asking if police staff thought people were given jobs based on merit.

In 2012, nearly 50 percent of respondents thought they were, but that number dropped to just 30.3 percent by 2017.

The question no longer appears in staff surveys.

The head of human resources at the police, Kaye Ryan, said the lack of faith staff had in the recruitment process has led to a trial of a more transparent process.

"Across our trial workgroups recruitment experts now partner with hiring managers, which has resulted in the development of an assessment and selection strategy that challenges managers to consider not just a candidate's prior experience, but their future potential," Ms Ryan said.

"Initial feedback tells us employees feel informed throughout this process and valued regardless of the outcome."

Last week, Ms Ryan said she rejects claims that bullying is widespread in the police.

But when asked about senior managers minimising complaints and blaming menstruation, she said that is unacceptable and asked staff to report it.

At least one of the cases RNZ knows about was reported.

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