Police Accused of Covering-Up Incident Involving Deputy Police Commissioner

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The New South Wales police force has come under fire for covering up an incident involving Deputy Police Commissioner Mal Lanyon.

Government documents released in state Parliament have reveal fresh details about an incident that occurred when ambulance and police officers responded to a call-out to help a man who was ‘lying on the footpath’ at the Mercure Hotel in Goulburn in March this year.

Assistant Commissioner collapsed outside hotel

The man who had collapsed, or in his own words had a “medical episode”, was Deputy Police Commissioner, Mal Lanyon.

He was visiting Goulburn with colleagues and had been out for the evening ahead of a police ceremony to induct new recruits.

Mr Lanyon had been drinking but claimed the alcohol was not the reason for his collapse.

The documents released in State Parliament include an email from Ambulance NSW to senior department officials, including Health Department staff, entitled “Paramedic Assault Brief – Details, Context and Background”.

Agitated and argumentative

Key details about the incident, such as the nature of the recorded “assault type”, have been censored by the police, but it is alleged the ununiformed Mr Lanyon became agitated and argumentative with paramedics as they tried to assist him, challenging them with the question “do you know who I am?”.

It has also been alleged Mr Lanyon made a phone call to NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan and, after speaking with him briefly, handed the phone to an ambulance officer.

Commissioner Morgan reportedly told the ambulance officers to treat Mr Lanyon as if he were any other patient.

After being given the ‘all clear’ by the paramedics, Mr Lanyon was allowed to return to his hotel room.

NSW Police say the incident was referred to both the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission for independent oversight and was reviewed by the NSW Police Force Professional Standards Command, but was deemed to be ‘appropriately dealt with’ by Commissioner Fuller who counselled his deputy after the incident.

The NSW Police Force drug and alcohol policy does not expressly prohibit the consumption of alcohol by police officers, even if they are on duty.

However, officers are required to adhere to ‘acceptable standards of behaviour.’

Complaint details censored

After the incident, the ambulance officers involved made an internal complaint which has been censored from the public.

It’s understood Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan reached out to the officers to ensure they had received the necessary support they required, admitting that he himself had not been privy to all of the information in the original report.

Limited information was released only when called for by One Nation MP Rod Roberts and Greens MP David Shoebridge and both are now working to have the full details disclosed for the sake of transparency.

In recent days the Deputy Commissioner has apologised the the ambulance officers and NSW Police have released a statement confirming the incident, saying:

“NSW Police can confirm that a senior officer had a minor medical episode outside his accommodation in Goulburn,” the statement says. “The officer acknowledges he was difficult and did not want to be transported to hospital as he was aware of his condition. He apologises if he presented any difficulty to those officers upon their arrival and will take steps to apologise to them in person.”

The statement also says that the ­officer’s treating doctor had suggested the medical episode had occurred as a result of “exhaustion and dehydration”.

Interestingly, it has been reported that no record of the incident was made by the police officers who attended with suggestions that this may be because it was considered a ‘non-event’. Officers don’t write up situation reports for every single interaction or activity that occurs while they are on duty but have the discretion to determine what must go on the formal record.

Certainly, amongst the various types of incidents that emergency crews respond to on any given night there is a possibility the one involving Deputy Police Commissioner Lanyon might seem like a ‘non-event’ except that it involved the man who is on the shortlist to be the next Police Commissioner of New South Wales. A man in a senior position, who should, after more than 30 years on the force, be aware of the stresses and strains of the role, and the fact that the job of emergency response crews is never made any easier when people are disrespectful and uncooperative.

Furthermore, if the incident really is considered to be minor, then questions must be asked about why it is shrouded in secrecy? At a time when there is a sense of mistrust between the general public and the NSW Police Force, the importance of transparency is greater than ever, irrespective of the insignificance or magnitude of the incident.

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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