Fighting for police officers’ rights

Chris Smith and his brother Rick have started a petition calling for better workers’ compensation for police officers.  Picture: Matt Jelonek        www.communitypix.com.au   d445125
Fighting for police officers’ rights
Chris Smith and his brother Rick have started a petition calling for better workers’ compensation for police officers. Picture: Matt Jelonek        www.communitypix.com.au d445125

WA Police Senior Constable Chris Smith was severely beaten by two motorcyclists in Mt Lawley in 1984.

The State Government had just introduced the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act, which placed some workplace duty of care on employers.

But the emphasis on the prevention of accidents and injury at work did not include WA police officers.

The assault left Mr Smith in a coma and with brain damage.

In 1986, he retired from WA Police as a medically unfit police officer, having received an ex-gratia payment of $60,000 and $15,000 for criminal injuries.

Mr Smith, now 65, said if he lived to the biblical age of three score and ten – or 70 – his payments would equate to about $2500 a year.

“I was asked very eloquently to put in for retirement,” he said.

“When I was injured, I was married with four children.

“If I didn’t have the superannuation they had then, I would be on welfare.”

Mr Smith remains active in his community, serving as a justice of the peace and joining the Rockingham Citizens Advice Bureau, earning an Order of Australia Medal.

But he still laments the loss of the job he loved.

Mr Smith and his brother Rick recently established an online petition urging the WA Government to introduce workers’ compensation rather than ad hoc ex-gratia payments that WA Police Union president George Tilbury said were dictated by media attention.

“We believe there has to be a better way to compensate officers for injuries sustained in the course of their duties, as in Chris Smith’s case,” he said.

“Payments should not depend on how much media attention or public support you receive.”

Mr Smith said he wanted to help start a conversation about protecting police in the line of duty.

“This is not about me, this is about getting decent workers’ compensation for police officers that are yet to come,” he said. “(Police) go to work with all good intentions and (their family) may never see them again in the same light.”

To sign the petition, go to http://chn.ge/1KakoBQ.