The Industrial Relations Commission has ordered the reinstatement of gay policeman George Zisopoulos as four other gay officers targeted in an internal probe sue NSW Police for discrimination.
The IRC declared his termination “harsh, unreasonable, and unjust” as Zisopoulos’ lawyers suggested he was targeted as part of a culture of homophobia within the NSW Police, The Australian reported.
He was in regular contact with illicit substances and offenders under the influence of drugs in his position at what was then the Newtown local area command.
Zisopoulos was a sergeant with 16 years’ experience in the police force and had received an award for diligent and ethical service.
“All I ever wanted was to be a police officer. I loved my job and this has been like losing a part of myself,” he said.
Nicole Dunn, Zisopoulos’ solicitor, suggested “there is the possibility of a culture within the police force that targets homosexuals.”
The four other officers targeted as part of a nine-month investigation codenamed ‘Andro’ have filed the largest ever gay discrimination lawsuit against law enforcement in Australia.
Steven Rapisarda, Shane Housego, Christian McDonald, and Chris Sheehy all returned negative drug tests and say they were deliberately targeted by a force rife with institutional homophobia.
The probe was launched by then commander of Newtown LAC, Simon Hardman, after he filed an internal complaint alleging the officers were drug users due to their “known promiscuity” and “loose morals”.
Hardman is now University of Sydney’s head of security and has been on leave since July.
The four officers are seeking $100,000 each in damages, an apology from NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, as well as updates to the organisation’s LGBTI policies.
Documentation alleging homophobia in Newtown LAC submitted to NSW’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal claim officers would frequently express disgust and use shocking homophobic slurs in reference to men kissing on the street such as “poofters”, “faggots”, “gay as AIDS” or “pillow biters”.
The documents also allege that officers routinely dismissed claims of domestic violence when reported by LGBTI people.
A Sydney Morning Herald report on the probe last year detailed the eight-man strike force put together by NSW Police’s Professional Standards Command after it was claims that the officers had “shaved down completely” so as not to be targeted as part of drug tests using hair samples, despite photos proving otherwise.
It was later reported that submissions to a tribunal suggested then assistant commissioner Fuller had failed to investigate the probe itself after the officers subject to it raised concerns of discrimination.
Part of Hardman’s claim against the officers was that all four were friends and regularly frequently venues like Stonewall, and cited the men’s “indiscriminate sexuality”.
Rapisarda stated that at the time that he and the officers didn’t socialise as a group and that their sexuality was the only link between them.
A spokesperson for NSW Police told The Australian that Fuller had “zero tolerance for homophobia”.