The government has been urged to expedite its response to a petition calling for police who have suicided to be included on honour roll.
The government has been urged to expedite its response to a petition calling for police who have suicided to be included on honour roll.

Calls to fast-track police honour roll decision

A Far North Queensland MP and the son of a missing police officer are calling on the State Government to fast-track their response to a petition asking for police who have died by suicide to be recognised on the police honour roll.

The parliamentary electronic petition, titled Queensland Police Honour Roll should recognise mental and physical injury, was tabled in parliament today with 787 signatures, but is part of a decade of campaigning by a missing Queensland police officer's family.

Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto, 36, told the Courier Mail there was still a need to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, including the way law enforcement officers were officially recognised.

"There are 13 families across Queensland who that hope to see their loved ones honoured on the police honour roll if this is passed through," he said.

"Your memory shouldn't be penalised or your honour degraded because of mental health injuries."

The petition was launched by former police officer and Townsville resident Steven Isles, who lost his father, 58-year-old Senior Sergeant Michael Isles, while on duty in 2009.

It followed a July 8 finding by the Queensland Ombudsman that deemed the exclusion of officers who had died from suicide from the state honour roll as being discriminatory.

The Ombudsman recommended the Queensland Police Commissioner reconsider adding Snr-Sgt-Sgt Isles - and other officers - to the Queensland Police Honour Roll.

On September 23, 2009, the married father of three and Officer-in-Charge of the Ayr police station, headed to Townsville for training but never arrived.

An abandoned police car was found five days later near Ravenswood, 80km from Ayr.

He has not been seen since and no body has ever been found.

Coroner Michael Barnes "reluctantly" ruled the police officer's suspected death a suicide during a 2012 inquest in Brisbane.

Mr Isles, 40, said skeletal remains found in August this year about 100km from where the police car was found were confirmed to be of a male but there they were "indications" they were unlikely to be his father's remains.

QPS Senior Sergeant Michael Isles, pictured with his wife Fiona, has been missing from Ayr since September 23, 2009. Picture: Facebook
QPS Senior Sergeant Michael Isles, pictured with his wife Fiona, has been missing from Ayr since September 23, 2009. Picture: Facebook

A justice of the peace and former Northern Territory police officer, Mr Isles said his father suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his 35-years in law enforcement, including being wrongfully targeted in a 2008 corruption investigation.

Snr Sgt Isles was cleared of the alleged misconduct on September 18, 2009 and had only returned to work on the Monday after being exonerated of any wrongdoing by then-Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson.

The Isles family have battled for years to have Snr Sgt Isles - and other police officers who have died through PTSD-related suicide - included on the state and national police memorial that was established in 2006 in Canberra.

Criteria for inclusion on the National Police Memorial declares cases of suicide were not eligible.

Though state and territory memorials were left up to the discretion of individual jurisdictions Queensland Police follow the National Police Memorial guidelines to maintain consistency.

Names of police officers who took their lives following work-related trauma have been included on the NSW Police Wall of Remembrance since 2017.

 

Steven Isles continues to fight to have his father, Senior Sergeant Mick Isles memorialised. He disappeared while on duty near Ayr only 18-months before retirement. Picture: Facebook
Steven Isles continues to fight to have his father, Senior Sergeant Mick Isles memorialised. He disappeared while on duty near Ayr only 18-months before retirement. Picture: Facebook

In September 2018, the Isles family lodged a discrimination complaint with the Office of the Queensland Ombudsman.

"He did die on the carriage of his service, whether it was foul play or suicide there was a direct causative link to employment without that link he would still be here to be a grandfather," Mr Isles said.

Mr Dametto said the petition would be assigned to the relevant government Minister, who would have 30 days to respond.
He called on Police Minister Mark Ryan to provide a response before the election and in time for National Police Memorial day on September 29.

"There is a risk here that we may not receive one in this time frame once the government goes into caretaker mode on October 6, ahead of the election on October 31," he said.
"If that happens, we'll have to wait until after the election when the next government is sworn in.

"In my view, that's far too long and the families of fallen officers deserve an answer on this important matter in this term of parliament.

"The petition is asking for something very straight forward from the government - accept the recommendation of the Queensland Ombudsman and enable consideration on merit of serving police officers whose loss of life can be attributed to suicide added to the Police Honour Roll."

A letter from the Assistant Ombudsman Investigations and Resolutions Unit, dated July 10, found the QPS's adoption criteria established for the National Police Memorial fails to acknowledge the discretion available "in dealing with such decisions with respect to the QPS Honour roll."

A photo of Queensland Police Senior Sergeant Michael Isles sits near a police memorial. Picture: Facebook
A photo of Queensland Police Senior Sergeant Michael Isles sits near a police memorial. Picture: Facebook

"The QPS's policy to exclude from the Honour Roll all personnel who have died by suicide fails to recognise that some cases of suicide may be due to work related mental illness," it stated.

"The provision in the QPS Honours and Awards Policy which excludes personnel who have died from suicide from being included on the QPS Honour Roll has a discriminatory effect against people who have died due to work-related mental illness."

The letter says the final report would not be published as a public report.

"The final report contains opinions about the QPS's administrative actions and recommendations for the QPS to consider," it states.
Police Minister Mark Ryan told the Courier Mail he would defer the decision to Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll.

"I am advised that the Police Commissioner is looking into this matter," he said.

"It's a decision that should be made by police and I will respect any decision they make."|
Ms Carroll did not return a request for comment, however a Queensland police spokesman said a review of the QPS Honours and Awards Policy was underway with a view to be more inclusive.
"It is expected this review will be completed within the next few months," he said.

"This remains a complex and important issue and one that commissioners across Australian jurisdictions are aware of.

"Queensland currently follow guidelines that are consistent with the National Police Memorial guidelines and as such it is appropriate to continue consultations across jurisdictions."

The Suicide Call Back service is on 1300 659 467.   

Originally published as Calls for government to fast-track police honour roll decision


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