Forte family fury: Police investigators ‘part of problem’

 

The family of murdered police officer Brett Forte say they want a "fully independent" investigation into claims of bullying and poor behaviour towards his grieving wife and police partner, claiming the Ethical Standards Command has treated them "appallingly".

Senior Constable Susie Forte and Senior Constable Cath Nielsen made explosive claims during the inquest into Sen Const Brett Forte's murder, alleging some officers told the grieving widow she was responsible for her husband's death.

Sen Const Nielsen also told the inquest she was "lied to", "shit-canned", threatened with complaints and had her gun taken away following her partner's murder.

Luke Forte says any investigation into police actions after the death of his brother Brett must be fully independent. Picture: Jamie Hanson
Luke Forte says any investigation into police actions after the death of his brother Brett must be fully independent. Picture: Jamie Hanson

Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll yesterday announced an ESC investigation was under way into the women's claims, saying any allegations of bullying would be taken "extremely seriously".

But Sen Const Forte's brother, Luke, said he was "shocked" at the announcement because the family has expressed their concern about the ESC investigation into Sen Const Forte's death.

Sen Const Forte was murdered on May 29, 2017, by paranoid gunman Ricky Maddison after he led several police cars on a low-speed pursuit down the remote Wallers Rd, outside Toowoomba.

Maddison opened fire on the police vehicles with a machine gun, killing Sen Const Forte. Maddison was shot and killed following a 20-hour standoff with police.

Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll told The Courier-Mail: "Any allegations raised of bullying or poor behaviour in the workplace are always taken extremely seriously."

"Without pre-empting the findings of the Coroner, the allegations raised by the officers in Toowoomba are currently being investigated by the Ethical Standards Command."

Susie Forte speaks at her husband’s funeral in Toowoomba. Picture: Dan Peled
Susie Forte speaks at her husband’s funeral in Toowoomba. Picture: Dan Peled

Premier Annastasia Palaszczuk said her heart bled for everyone affected by the tragedy.

"Every officer deserves to feel safe and supported at work," she said.

Mr Forte alleged his family had been subjected to "inappropriate" comments by investigators directed at Brett's widow Susie.

"ESC have not supported us, they have not kept us informed of anything and have treated us in my opinion appallingly," he said.

"We are victims, they have an obligation, I believe, to keep us updated regularly.

"I hadn't heard from ESC personally since late 2017 … (when they) were quick to refute any tough questions.

"We all wanted the truth, Susie included.

"I am aware a senior ESC officer has asked Susie if she was trying to get police into trouble. "I don't believe any outcomes in relation to her questions were ever sufficiently answered - if at all.

Ricky Maddison pictured opening fire on the car carying Brett Forte and his partner Cath Nielsen. Picture: Supplied
Ricky Maddison pictured opening fire on the car carying Brett Forte and his partner Cath Nielsen. Picture: Supplied

"I had the same experience when I asked questions and escalated concerns."

Mr Forte said their appointed police family liaison officer - who they respected enormously - was removed without explanation. He said at the inquest they were shocked to hear one of the investigators described as their liaison officer.

Mr Forte said the person described as the lead investigator was someone they'd never met.

"Getting ESC to investigate claims made at the inquest and the treatment of officers is not the solution … (they) are, in fact, a huge part of the problem.

"This is an inquest into my brother's death and if the Coroner does not have 100 per cent of the truth, how can he make proper recommendations?

"My brother Brett is a hero. He saved many lives that day. But I can tell you, in my eyes, there is another hero in all of this - and that is my sister-in-law, Susie.

"I truly can not comprehend how she continues to stand so strong and is prepared to fight for the truth while working in what appears to be a horrendous workplace culture."

Originally published as Forte family fury: Police investigators 'huge part of problem'



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