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WA Police: Survey finds majority oppose vaccine mandates

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WA Police officers claim they have been “bullied” into getting vaccinated, while describing morale as dangerously low due to Covid-19 enforcement.

Serving WA Police officers claim they have been “bullied” into getting vaccinated, while describing morale in the force as dangerously low as resources are diverted away from traditional policing towards the state’s Covid-19 response.

The comments were made anonymously in response to an unofficial survey about the WA Police vaccine mandate, sent by former officer Jordan McDonald to all serving employees late last month.

Mr McDonald resigned out of protest in November and has since turned to advocating on behalf of dozens of other unvaccinated officers currently stood down, including Senior Constable Ben Falconer who is challenging the mandates in the WA Supreme Court.

“I’m getting constant feedback from those that are stood down but also those that aren’t and are still working that they are bothered by the mandated booster,” Mr McDonald told this week.

“Also, a fourth shot has just been listed on the internal HR system, so now there are concerns the fourth is going to be mandated.”

On February 27, Mr McDonald sent a link to his survey to every serving WA Police member via their regimental number-associated email address. He says he was told supervisors instructed staff not to complete the survey, and that by 11pm that night the URL had been blocked from being opened on police computers.

Not long after, he says the email was completely deleted from police inboxes.

Over the following week he received 386 responses to the survey, with Mr McDonald describing the feedback as “significant and concerning” in a document circulated this month summarising the results.

“I knew that the general consensus (about the vaccine mandates) wasn’t as one-sided as what those in the hierarchy and the union believed, but the actual results did shock me,” he said.

Of those who responded to the survey, nearly 68 per cent said they did not support the vaccine mandates, and 46 per cent did not want the Covid-19 vaccines – with many saying “bullying” was a major reason for getting the jab.

Fifty-seven respondents, or 15 per cent, said they had a serious reaction to their vaccine, while 83 per cent said they felt traditional policing priorities had been negatively impacted or neglected due to the Covid-19 response.

The majority said they did not agree with how police were being used to enforce public health directions, and 60 per cent said they no longer had confidence in WA Police chief Chris Dawson.

“The takeaway is exactly what I suspected from the beginning, which is that morale is bad because of the diverted response away from traditional policing, and the never-ending goalposts,” Mr McDonald said.

“It actually started with an internal mask mandate back in September, before the vaccine mandate came into effect. If you were not vaccinated you needed to wear a face mask at work – that caused a lot of people who didn’t want to wear a mask at work all day to go and get it. Now they’ve been double-vaccinated, they have to wear the mask every day anyway, and now there’s a booster mandate. It’s just never-ending goalposts.”

He added that Operation Tide – the name of the WA Police Covid-19 response – had pulled around 500 officers from the front lines. “Honestly some of the stories I’m being told about the neglect of traditional policing would horrify people,” he said.

The 30-year-old former Senior Constable, who describes himself as “pro-choice” rather than anti-vaccination, concedes that the survey had a small sample size, and could be accused of bias as those opposed to the mandates would be more likely to respond.

But he points to a number of comments received as feedback to the survey from “passionate people with opposing views”.

“You’ve left the job, stop trying to push this on coppers who are just getting on with the job,” one respondent wrote. “No one wants to listen to your political cr*p.”

Another said, “Give it a rest and move on lads. You’re not Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, you’re coming across as petulant children.”

A third wrote, “I’m really glad people like you have left the job because you are a cancer to morale and the good work we do. Good riddance to you and be sure to take anyone that agrees with you.”

A fourth added, “Worst display of unethical behaviour of someone who calls themselves a former police officer that I have ever seen. You should actually be ashamed of yourself.”

But others spoke out against the mandates.

“I got my vaccination when the ‘unvaccinated’ were required to wear masks,” one wrote. “I felt bullied and alone. Given the choice I would like to have waited and received different vaccine to Pfizer and Moderna. I believe my third vaccine is the reason for my recent (health problem).”

Another said they were “severely injured by the vaccine” and “not one person outside of my team has asked if I’m OK”, adding that they had been branded “anti-vax” by colleagues and “ostracised at every turn”.

A third, describing himself as a veteran police officer, said morale was “the worst I have ever seen it” with a large number of senior staff looking for other work.

“I recently assisted in policing a peaceful protest in Perth CBD and I was absolutely disgusted at the tactics we were being forced to apply to decent ordinary people who were simply standing up for what they believe in,” he wrote.

Mr McDonald says irrespective of the survey’s limitations, the responses prove that one was needed and should have been conducted either by the WA Police itself or the union, which he accused of being “completely absent” on the issue and refusing to support members challenging the mandates.

“The union supports the mandates,” he said.

“When officers were stood down on December 1, they were facing disciplinary action and were meant to be dismissed in late December or the start of January. We had to go and engage a private legal team because the union wouldn’t help challenge the mandate in the Supreme Court.”

The court granted a temporary injunction just before Christmas preventing the unvaccinated officers from being sacked until the trial, which begins on March 29.

“That’s the only reason they’re still in the job,” he said.

The WA Police Union declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for WA Police provided comments made by Commissioner Dawson on Perth radio addressing the survey.

“We can’t have people from outside the WA Police Force sending surveys to staff whatever the subject matter,” he said.

“But … it’s not the biggest deal in the world – I have not called for an inquiry or investigation and I have not called for anyone who responded to the survey to be reprimanded in anyway. No officers have been reprimanded for filling out the survey.”

In relation to the survey findings, Mr Dawson said he would “not speak on behalf of the 10,000 police officers and police staff who make up the WA Police force” and that “they’re entitled to their own opinion”.

“However, when it comes to enforcing laws and abiding by workplace regulations, there’ll be no debate,” he said.

“No other internal survey has been conducted about mandatory Covid vaccinations. Such a survey would not change anything and is therefore not considered a prudent use of money, resources and time.”

In January, a WA Police staff member mistakenly used the official Twitter account of the Broome Police to question the Police Commissioner about how “being vaccinated stops the disease”.

“I have been vaccinated but am told by the very doctors that jabbed me that the vaccine does not prevent me from getting Covid??” the tweet said. “Why are we now ignoring this fact?”

Last week, South Australia’s top cop abruptly withdrew the state’s vaccine mandate in a reprieve for roughly 80 officers who had not received the shots.

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said high vaccination rates in the general public and the police force were the reasons for the change.

“We have assessed all those factors and put mitigating steps in place to make sure that we’ve minimised that risk, so we are confident that this is the sensible and appropriate time to lift the mandate,” he said.

“The direction was a lawful one and appropriate and proportionate at the time that it was made given the circumstances.”

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