An ex-SA Police officer has quit the force, alleging she was racially bullied and harassed out of her job by colleagues after they discovered her partner was an Aboriginal man.
Former officer, Gabriella Capponi, met with her lawyers on Tuesday, and confirmed she will pursue a workplace claim against the South Australia Police for racist comments which included an officer referring to Aboriginal people as former Australian cricketer, “David Boon” because it rhymed with “coon.”
Speaking to NITV News on Friday, Ms Capponi said she was with South Australia Police (SAPOL) for almost 10-years before the personal attacks became too much for her to bear.
“One really horrible...horrible comment, I've had people come up to me in the workplace and say, ‘oh does your mate even work, or does he just steal cars for a living?’” said Ms Capponi.
In October last year, Ms Capponi said she joined Operation Mandrake, a task force formed to specifically investigate Aboriginal offenders, but resigned in early November after her relationship with an Aboriginal man became a running joke in the office.
“It was a bit of a joke that I was dating him,” she said. “It was like, ‘how funny is it that Gabby is dating an Aboriginal person?’.
“I had someone come in and say to somebody else in front of me and try to sort of whisper it, ‘oh does she get benefits now that they’re living together?’.
“I think that was my last straw, the benefit comment - I said nah, you know what, this is not ok anymore, they’ve got to stop saying this.”
Ms Capponi said the workplace harassment not only affected her relationship with her partner, but it also affected her mentally.
“It pretty much pushed me to the point where I went off on stress leave because I was crying going into work, and it affected [my boyfriend] and I pretty badly,” she said.
Ms Capponi also said the force failed to recognise and take accountability for the “the things that were wrong.”
“Everyone else in the office sort of let it go and that's the issue. It's not even the fact that the person was saying it, it's the fact that everybody else let it go as well and treated it as normal,” she said.
Before Ms Capponi joined Operation Mandrake, she said she had heard racial remarks from colleagues directed towards Aboriginal people, but she really picked up on it once she started dating her boyfriend.
“I had seen things that didn’t sit right with me which became more obvious after dating him and then I started to notice it and recognise it a bit more and to be honest, for years, I was thinking, this doesn’t seem right, this isn’t right,” she said.
Upon leaving the force, Ms Capponi said she became a target.
“I reckon the day that I pretty much lost it, everybody looked at me like I was a snitch or something and I was then the person who became a target," she said.
“Regardless of everything, the issue is that the comments made and the way that they are speaking with and interacting with the Aboriginal community, is wrong and that needs to be addressed,' she said.
In a statement provided to NITV News, a police spokesperson said SAPOL have a program of Cultural Awareness training for all staff, and SAPOL’s Diversity & Inclusion Branch have worked with Operation Mandrake personnel specifically around Indigenous cultural understanding.
"SAPOL has provided ongoing support to Miss Capponi over an extended period of time. SAPOL have no further comment to make on this matter."