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Despite being found guilty of the offence (and the subject of an AVO), one NSW police officer still has a job and remains on full pay.
Despite its public statements, the New South Wales Police Force has allowed one of its officers to keep his job despite being found guilty of sexually touching a female colleague without her consent and sentenced to an 18-month conditional release order. An apprehended violence order was also made against the officer.
Sergeant Ronald John Tarlington remains has been suspended on full pay despite a Magistrate in Downing Centre Local Court finding him guilty and imposing the orders on him.
The court heard that a female colleague was sitting on Sergeant Tarlington’s lap at a pub one evening late last year, when the senior officer moved his right hand inside her jacket and grabbed her breast, causing her to stand up and walk away.
The woman told the court that her superior squeezed her nipple, growled and had a crooked smile on his face. She reported the incident to several colleagues immediately afterwards, and the entire incident was captured on CCTV footage.
In finding him guilty, Magistrate Paul Mulroney found there was no evidence consistent with the touch being a mistake, as the sergeant had claimed.
His Honour remarked that people should be able to socialise without having their bodily integrity compromised, and that the sergeant’s conduct was a breach of trust.
Mr Tarlington is now appealing his sentence to the District Court of New South Wales.
Harassment is rife in the NSW police force
Harassment and bullying are rife amongst the Australian police forces, with figures released in 2018 showing that in the New South Wales force alone, officers lodge around 200 harassment complaints against their own colleagues each year, about a quarter of which are for sexual harassment.
In 2019, a cultural review of the NSW police force, conducted by former Australian sex discrimination commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, found that one in three women reported being sexually harassed by a colleague in the last five years while only 13% men said the same.
Female officers reported a ‘masculine culture’ with high levels of sexual discrimination, which made it difficult for them to do their jobs or move through the ranks to leadership positions.
At the time, the New South Wales police union called on the force for urgent action to end the ‘boys club’ mentality and provide more of a level playing field for women.
Victorian police, South Australian Police and the AFP have also been the subject of various reviews in the past several years, each of which has highlighted high levels of harassment.
For victims, speaking up can mean further harassment as well as ostracism and intimidation. Police forces around the country have a reputation for isolating and tormenting whistleblowers and protecting their own.
Often this means officers who witness poor behaviour won’t stand up for their colleagues either for fear of reprisal, and victims can sometimes find it easier to leave the force.
Part of the problem too, stems from the fact that offending officers are, more often than not, left undisciplined.