Police hats at the police memorial in Molesworth St, Lismore as part of the recent National Police Remembrance Day.
Police hats at the police memorial in Molesworth St, Lismore as part of the recent National Police Remembrance Day. Jacklyn Wagner

Officer's hidden toll revealed

EVERY night a normally outgoing Northern Rivers police officer sleeps in bursts of 45 minutes.

During the day he flashes back to when he sat beside two dismembered children who had just been murdered by their own father.

And between all that he will check his front yard to ensure the disgruntled ghosts of his past are not hiding in the hedges.

This is the result of the officer's 12 years in the NSW Police Force and an example of the post traumatic stress disorder suffered by many of his current and former colleagues.

The 43-year-old, who spoke on the basis of anonymity, started as a motivated constable in Sydney before moving to the Northern Rivers where he worked as a general duties officer in a notoriously understaffed command.

After years of being in a position where dead bodies, trauma and grief were the norm, the father of three began to falter.

"I went to a friend's wedding and the (bride) asked me to hold her baby during the ceremony," he said.

"I had investigated the cot death of her first baby and I just started to cry as I held her child and two hours later I couldn't stop.

"I just thought it was normal to get up every night and check if there were any baddies in the front yard, but it's not normal."

The man's condition began to take a toll on his home life.

"I have the most beautiful wife in the whole world," he said.

"But she couldn't understand why if the remote was not in the same place as I left it, I would go off. I found safety in order and when I thought the order was out, I couldn't handle it."

This officer is an example of who will be hit the hardest by the Police Minister Michael Gallacher's proposal to tighten the reins on the NSW Police Force's death and disability scheme (D&D).

The difference to this police officer is $500,000 under the old scheme compared with $60,000 under the proposed scheme.

Under the new scheme, injured police will be offered income protection insurance instead of lump-sum pay outs.

The former cop doubts, as a 43-year-old with a mental illness, he will ever be employable and with his financial security threatened by the D&D changes, his future is paved with uncertainty.

Another former police officer, who lives near Nimbin, rides a similar mental rollercoaster.

The former Water Police officer spent his working week plucking decomposed bodies from Sydney's water ways.

Completing an autopsy on a baby and attending a shotgun suicide in someone's front yard are still vivid memories for the former cop.

"You always wonder if you did it right," he said.

"A lot of the time you come up with the answer 'No'."

The man had multiple relationship breakdowns before suffering a personal demise.

"The police force changed me."