A former South Australia Police officer has spoken out claiming she was bullied out of the force and subjected to racist comments because her partner is Indigenous.
- Gabriella Capponi alleges she was bullied out of her job after her colleagues found out her partner was Indigenous
- She is pursuing a workplace claim against SAPOL
- It says it promotes an ‘inclusive’ and ‘respectful’ workplace
Speaking with ABC Radio Adelaide’s Ali Clarke, Gabriella Capponi said she had been with SAPOL for almost 10 years when the personal attacks became too much to bear.
“It broke me as a person,” she said.
“I can’t even look at police the same after this.
“I ended up going on stress leave because I couldn’t even drive to the building without breaking down.”
Ms Capponi said she was working as part of Operation Mandrake, a taskforce formed to investigate a group of Aboriginal offenders, when her relationship became a “running joke” among her colleagues.
“My partner being Aboriginal, it became a bit of a laugh — me having started dating an Aboriginal person and working with Aboriginal offenders,” she said.
“I remember one time I’ve walked into the office with no shoes on and someone turned around to me and said: ‘What have you been doing? Up stealing cars with your mate all night?'”
She said another person queried whether she would receive “benefits” now her and her partner were living together.
Ms Capponi said she believed there was a widespread culture problem within SAPOL.
“I remember pretty much the first week of having graduated from the police academy, we were walking down Hindley Street, and I remember one of my supervisors at the time said ‘it’s not racism, it’s stereotyping that we do’,” she said.
“That stuck with me — it is racism — it’s not stereotyping.
“What the officers believe is stereotyping is actually racism, it is taught amongst everyone.”
Lack of cultural awareness training within SAPOL
When she started calling out her colleagues for their comments, Ms Capponi said one of her supervisors told her to “get over it” and she began to feel ostracised.
“I thought at that point that they would take some responsibility and look at the workplace and go, look we’ve got an issue here … and implement, as a minimum, cultural awareness training,” she said.
“I don’t even remember the last time I had cultural awareness training.”
In a statement, a spokesperson from SAPOL said the organisation had “worked closely with Ms Capponi” and had provided her with “significant support over an extended period of time”.
“SAPOL actively promotes an inclusive, professional and respectful workplace,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said cultural awareness training had been provided to all police officers across the organisation and that it was compulsory training for all new recruits.
“The recruit program includes a number of modules focusing on Indigenous people.”
“There has been some difficulty since August in 2018 in consistently sourcing Indigenous presenters, but the training has continued irrespective of this.”
Haydyn Bromley, who runs a company that specialises in delivering cultural awareness training to organisations, told ABC Radio Adelaide that SAPOL had rejected his services.
“I have actually approached them to ask if I could deliver training … and I have been told that they do it in-house,” he said.
“What’s worse is that the people that are delivering it in-house are not Aboriginal.”
Police Minister says racism ‘not an issue’ within SAPOL
Police Minister Corey Wingard said Ms Capponi’s claims were a matter for the Police Commissioner to deal with. (ABC News)
When asked about Ms Capponi’s claims, South Australian Police Minister Corey Wingard said racism was not an issue within SAPOL and that sufficient cultural training was provided to officers.
Mr Wingard said he would not comment on the allegations.
“That’s a matter for the Police Commissioner [Grant Stevens] and I suggest that question be forwarded to him,” he said.
“He’s in charge of staffing and operations and that’s for him to deal with.”
Ms Capponi is pursuing a workplace claim against SAPOL.
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