Four gay police officers have won a discrimination lawsuit against the NSW Police Force after claiming they were unfairly targeted for a drug investigation because of their sexuality.
The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) ruled Christopher Sheehy, Christian McDonald (pictured above, left), Steven Rapisarda, and Shane Housego were “were presumed to be engaged in drug use by reason of their homosexuality,” ABC News reported.
In 2015, then-Superintendent of the Newtown Local Area Command, Simon Hardman (pictured above, right), wrongly accused the four gay officers of drug use in an official complaint.
He claimed the five officers formed a “close-knit friendship group of homosexual like-minded” officers. The men’s attendance at bars such as Stonewall on Oxford Street raised “further suspicion,” he said.
He falsely alleged the men had “an anecdotal reputation for loose morals and reckless behaviour” and two were “notorious for their promiscuity”.
“Drug use is thought to be fundamental in such indiscriminate sexual encounters,” his complaint read.
The complaint triggered a six-month internal investigation, which ultimately found no evidence of wrongdoing by the four officers.
In its ruling on Friday, the NCAT said the homophobic slurs used in the office didn’t find a “culture of bullying” or “harassment” within the NSW Police Force.
However, it found Hardman was “homophobic” when he referred the officers in his command to undergo six months of drug testing.
On Friday, the court found Mr Hardman “was motivated, consciously or unconsciously, to make complaints … by reason of their homosexuality,” ABC News reported.
Gay cops will seek compensation from NSW Police
Mr Hardman is no longer with the NSW Police Force and is now head of security at the University of Sydney.
Lawyer Nicholas Stewart from Dowson Turco Lawyers said his clients were “vindicated” by the tribunal’s decision and would seek compensation.
He said the tribunal’s decision shows “the NSW Police force’s complaints system is vulnerable to misuse and abuse without independent oversight.”
“This decision [also] reflects that homophobia remains alive in pockets of every workplace,” he said.
“Employers need to do more to protect people, who are vulnerable to harassment and discrimination.”
A NSW Police spokesperson said the force is reviewing the tribunal’s decision and is considering its response.
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