Former Mandurah cops fight for compensation over Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

AT HIS lowest point James Yates held his own police-issued gun to his head and came within seconds of ending it all.

The then-serving local police officer had hit the wall.

Racked with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and frustrated by the lack of support he received from his employers, Mr Yates sat in his patrol vehicle contemplating death.

It was thoughts of his family which stopped him pulling the trigger.

Now medically retired from Western Australian Police, Mr Yates has penned his memoirs of 10 years serving on the frontline.

9370 Sooner or Later Everyone Pays a Price, was released this year.

The harrowing account of Mr Yates’ time on the force is scathing in its criticism of WA Police and the government’s failure to provide compensation to officers forced out a job due to mental health issues.

“I’ve been out [of the police force] for 10 years,” he said.

“It was more than seven years before I could sit down and write the book.

“It was therapeutic, but it was hard. I cried a lot.” - James Yates.

“It was therapeutic, but it was hard. I cried a lot.”

During his time as a police officer, Mr Yates came close to losing his life three times.

He was stabbed with a dirty needle, bitten by a hepatitis-infected offender, had his wrist broken, his ribs fractured and sustained a litany of bruises, grazes and other injuries.

It was all part of the job for the Mandurah man who referred to himself as “a punching bag”, and who said while the physical injuries were tough, it was the wounds nobody could see that brought him undone.

“It was the mental trauma that did the damage,” Mr Yates said.

“The emotional scars take longer to heal than the physical ones.”

Now fighting for compensation for medically retired police officers suffering from PTSD, Mr Yates used his book to call on the State government to back the issue.

“The WA government has a moral obligation to police officers who mentally and physically get broken in the line of duty,” he said.

Parliamentarians, who are generously looked after in every way, should start by changing the law to make police officers … not … have no right to workers’ compensation”.

RELATED: Former cops take on compensation fight

The fight goes on for former cop

ALSO fighting for compensation is another former Mandurah cop – Michael Thornbury.

For Mr Thornbury the road has been just as hard as Mr Yates’ journey.

It is almost a year to the day since he last spoke to the Mandurah Mail about his fight for compensation for medically retired officers.

A year on, not much has changed.

Police Minister Liza Harvey is still “looking into the issue”.

Mr Thornbury now has a Food Bank card to help him feed his family.

“I’m still waiting for answers,” he said.

“It’s just not right”.

Medically retired from the force in 2012, Mr Thornbury’s fight has taken him to State Parliament where he has spoken before MPs about his harrowing time in the force and his subsequent battle for compensation.

His latest venture has seen him fit out an ex-police vehicle which he uses to raise awareness of the plight of medically retired officers.

The authentic Holden Commodore mirrors one Mr Thornbury was photographed with in the Mandurah Mail more than 15 years ago.

Without the decals and lights, the vehicle can be driven on the road.

It is never driven ‘in uniform’.

At this stage Mr Thornbury said he would consider putting it on show if anyone was willing to have it on their private property.

"The more support we get, the better." - Michael Thornbury.

“The more support we get, the better,” he said.

“If I’d known we were not going to be looked after I would never have signed up.

“The Government has known about this issue since 1990.

“It shouldn’t take 20 years for either parties to change legislation.”

RELATED: Police workers compensation long overdue

Political football still in play

POLICE Minister Liza Harvey this week said the state government is still considering a comprehensive worker’s compensation scheme for police officers.

Amid renewed calls for the State’s police officers to be covered for serious injury and mental illness, Ms Harvey said she met representatives of the Medically Retired WA Police Officers Association to discuss a proposal.

“This Government is looking at issues around the establishment of a comprehensive workers compensation scheme,” she said.

In July last year, Ms Harvey told reporters she was exploring options, but to date no scheme has been forthcoming.

Shadow police minister Michelle Roberts last week criticised the Barnett Government for inaction and renewed opposition calls for police officers to be covered for serious injuries and mental illness.

However, Ms Harvey said Mrs Roberts failed to implement workers compensation for police when she was Minister. Mrs Roberts said: “The Barnett Government has talked about this for long enough. WA Police officers and their families want to see some action and they deserve to know that they will be taken care of if they are forced to retire as a result of their work.”

Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan has never ruled out the implementation of a workers compensation scheme, but he said last year it would not happen until the Police Union backed down on “extraordinary” sick leave entitlements which saw police granted up to 168 sick days per year.

“We have to have a scheme; the issue is one of fairness and equity,” he said.

The story Lasting scars from the thin blue line: former cops fight for PTSD compo first appeared on Mandurah Mail.

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