Officer who stole cash had a 'death wish': lawyer
A LAWYER has slammed Queensland's police culture, including dog food on desks for people dobbing in misconduct, in defending a police officer who stole cash during a drug bust.
Defence barrister Stephen Zillman told Brisbane Magistrates Court Shane Allan Stirling had "a death wish", which followed years of mental health problems, when he took $300 during a raid at Woodridge on June 25 this year.
He said his client was a detective sergeant involved in cracking large drug trafficking operations and high-profile murder cases during his 20-year "meritorious" career.
But Mr Zillman said this high performance at work hid the inner turmoil, including psychiatric and psychological issues.
He said Mr Stirling knew the cameras were in the room recording him during a raid but he was "playing out a death wish" because he wasn't coping.
Mr Zillman said conditions such as bipolar were considered "weak" and suffered discrimination in the police service.
"My client was concerned about perceptions within the service of any recognition of illness," he said.
"Often psychological excellence is paired with psychological deficiencies. That's the paradox.
"His obsessionally, high level activity, desire to excel and make no mistakes served the force well however from a psychiatric point of view he was displaying abnormal behaviours which finally came undone.
"When he was operating as an excellent officer he was operating as a psychologically impaired person."
Mr Zillman said Stirling, who faced disciplinary action after a complaint to the misconduct watchdog in 1995, found himself subject to much "demeaning" conduct when he made a complaint about an officer to the same organisation.
Stirling is accused of stealing $1000 during a raid but he is adamant he only took $300 which he repaid immediately.
Magistrate Ray Rinaudo said, after spending almost an hour reading material tendered to the court, Mr Stirling was displaying abnormal behaviours, out of touch with reality and had impaired judgment.
Police sought a jail sentence but Mr Rinaudo sentenced him to 200 hours' community service.
"By all accounts Mr Stirling was a dedicated, successful and meritorious police officer," he said.
"Except for one disciplinary lapse, he appears to have carried out his duties diligently and professionally.
"Therefore it is difficult to fathom why he would blatantly and in such obvious circumstances in the course of his duties during a drug bust steal money.
"The public demands the utmost integrity of many sectors of the community, but in particular police officers, to uphold the law."
Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said the suspended officer's "opportunistic actions" were an "unacceptable and disappointing aberration" which sadly reflected on the excellent work done every day by his fellow officers.
He said QPS he would now seek court transcripts and continue the disciplinary process, considering the person's suitability to remain a police officer.
"On average the QPS conducts more than 11,000 raids a year, and average less than seven complaints alleging theft annually," he said.
"The QPS has extensive protocols in place around the seizure of drugs and money, and those protocols are constantly scrutinised both by senior officers and external agencies."