Former Mandurah cop shines light on ‘unavoidable’ trauma and assaults

A former Mandurah police officer who was hit with a hammer, ‘king-hit’ and choked, is shining a light on the abuse and trauma officers will inevitably face in their careers.

Laurie Morley spent six of his 43-year career working in Mandurah and the rest in Yarloop, Harvey, Bunbury, Rockingham, Moora, Fremantle and Perth. 

The 60-year-old still suffers pain from the injuries he received in Harvey on October 16, 2015.

Read More:

The officer in charge was off duty when he attempted to stop 10 men attacking another outside a bottle shop.

Mr Morley said he was continuously hit with a hammer, punched, scratched, kicked and choked – even after telling the offenders he was a police officer.

“Five of them took off and five others thought I was a much better target then the fella they were trying to hurt in the first instance,” he said. 

Every police officer is suffering or will suffer from some sort of PTSD by the time they finish – without question.

Laurie Morley

“I managed to protect him and get him into a bystander’s car, but the door was open and they all just attacked him in the car.

“One person pulled my arm so far behind my body that it tore the ligaments in my shoulder.

“I was hit with a hammer and one hit my shoulder, severely damaging my elbow.

“Another told me if I touched him again, he was going to kill me.”

The Mandurah Mail last week reported 18 serious assaults on local police officers had been reported to the WA Police Union in less than two years.

I had a very good friend who was murdered in this job, by a woman who now walks free.

Laurie Morley

The statistics were backed up by data collated by the Mail, which shows nine public officer assault charges went before the Mandurah Magistrates Court in September. 

Mandurah District Senior Sergeant Darren Hart said assaults were an “unfortunate reality” officers faced in their careers. 

Mr Morley said his assault resulted in four surgeries and permanent nerve-damage. 

“It cost me two years of my career,” he said.

As a 17-year-old boy, I marked where that man’s brains were all over the road, picked them up and put them in a plastic bag.

Laurie Morley

“Nobody deserves or needs to be assaulted by anybody – that’s not a part of the job.

“We’re not punching bags.”

Mr Morley’s friend and colleague, Malcolm Stanaway, 28, who worked in Geraldton, was murdered on the job in 1979. 

“I had a very good friend who was murdered by a woman who now walks free,” he said. 

“He attended a domestic argument and was shot.

“We had a beer together three days before.”

Amanda Wilbraham served 11 years of her life sentence, before being released on parole. 

The state government has since reviewed its penalties and introduced tougher mandatory sentencing laws for assaults on police officers. 

Mr Morley estimated to have seen more than 250 dead bodies since he joined the Western Australian police force as a teenager in 1975.

“I have been the first officer on the scene of a couple of murders, back in the day when we were by ourselves,” he said. 

“The thing that has stuck with me is the very first death I went to – a suicide by car crash.

“I can actually still remember the name of the person who died. 

“As a 17-year-old boy I marked where that man’s brains were all over the road, picked them up and put them in a plastic bag.

“That was, unfortunately, how a lot of things were done in those days – there was a certain blasé attitude about it.”

Mr Morley was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 2000, which worsened after his assault.  

“I was having nightmares and hot sweats,” he said.

“I spent two weeks in a Perth clinic for mental health issues.

“Every police officer is suffering or will suffer from some sort of PTSD by the time they finish – without question – there is no way it can be avoided.”

He said his wife, family, colleagues and WA Police have been “extremely supportive”. 

Mr Morley, who retired on August 8, 2018, said he did not regret joining the police force. 

“Despite a lot of trauma, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world,” he said.