John Reisp, the former police officer with post-traumatic stress disorder who spoke out about his torment at the hands of private investigators, has finally won his fight for insurance benefits after nearly four long, dark years.
Speaking exclusively to the Mercury, the emotional former detective sergeant said he felt overcome with relief when his lawyer, John Cox, called to say insurer MetLife had accepted his Total and Permanent Disability claim.
‘‘I was shaking! I didn’t believe it, it was like I was in a trance, in a dream,’’ Mr Reisp said just hours after receiving the news.
‘‘I was so shocked I don’t even know if I thanked him.
“What I’ve gone through, I don’t wish that upon my worst enemy. You feel like you’re a criminal, they tear apart your soul and your self-worth. Now it’s finally over, I can’t believe it.’’
Mr Reisp is one of countless former police officers who say the battle over their insurance claims has exacerbated their already fragile psyche.
The breakthrough in Mr Reisp’s long-running dispute came after the Mercury exposed the tactics used against him and other former police officers by private investigators on the payroll of insurance companies, including MetLife.
On Friday, the Mercury published surveillance photos of Mr Reisp – who remained anonymous at that point – at his son’s football game, which were used as evidence in his claim because he was “appearing to smile”.
What I’ve gone through, I don’t wish that upon my worst enemy. You feel like you’re a criminal, they tear apart your soul and your self-worth.John Reisp
On Monday, Mr Reisp revealed his identity and spoke about his tumultuous years since being medically discharged from the NSW Police Force in 2011, drawing attention to the ‘‘grubby tactics’’ of private investigators.
While Mr Reisp’s diagnosis of anxiety, depression and chronic PTSD was never in question, he was put through the ringer while MetLife investigated his claim.
He was most furious when followed to his son’s football training and photographed ‘‘appearing to smile’’ and conversing with parents and children on school grounds.
Mr Cox, who heads the Slater and Gordon police compensation group, said the development was ‘‘a victory for commonsense’’ and he was delighted for Mr Reisp – although ‘‘significant issues’’ remained.
‘‘Mr Reisp is concerned about what appears to be significant breaches of the law concerning the unauthorised entering of school grounds for the purpose of surveillance and the visual recording of school children, as am I,’’ Mr Cox said.
‘‘Unfortunately, I have many clients with very strong claims in exactly the same position that Mr Reisp found himself in,’’ he said.
‘‘Frankly, it should not be necessary for a claim to be featured in the Illawarra Mercury before it is accepted.’’
Mr Cox said the ‘‘devastating and traumatic process’’ had had significant, detrimental effects on Mr Reisp’s close relationships.
‘‘I am relieved for Mr Reisp and hope that he can enter a place of healing and begin to restore his fractured life.’’
Mr Cox said the result gave hope to other officers awaiting settlement of their claims, who were commonly referred to as the ‘‘Forgotten 300’’.
‘‘These men and women should know they are not forgotten, that the community is overwhelmingly supportive of them and that there are decent people fighting for their rights.’’
He renewed his call or MetLife to immediately review all remaining ‘‘Forgotten 300’’ claims.
MetLife said last week it had boosted the number of assessors handling the outstanding claims and was confident all would be finalised well within six months.
‘‘I am pleased the claim was settled within two days of Mr Reisp’s story being published and given the speed with which MetLife moved, I am encouraged that the introduction of these further resources may lead to earlier finalisations,’’ Mr Cox said.
For Mr Reisp, who says he has ‘‘forgotten how to live’’, the future looks a little brighter.
‘‘It’s taken a great toll on my personal life, but it will make life easier for my kids and my family,’’ he said.
‘‘At the moment my focus is on my family. Nothing could ever make up for what this has cost me, but it certainly starts to make amends.’’
Mr Reisp said Mr Cox and his police compensation team had been his last hope and he would be forever grateful.
‘‘I was fortunate enough to meet a man with integrity who actually cared to help me through this. If it wasn’t for him, I know I wouldn’t have got this result.
‘‘He does it for the right reasons. As a police officer, I’ve met my share of parasitic lawyers, but he’s one of the most genuine people I have ever met.
‘‘He is a lifesaver and last hope for a lot of people. He puts himself out there and he truly feels our pain. They give people medals for bravery, he should be given a medal for his persistence.’’
Mr Reisp said he wanted to help other through the ‘‘horrible process’’.
‘‘I joined the cops because I wanted to help people and I want to continue to help ex-cops in my situation,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a lonely process. Unfortunately, coppers don’t trust anyone who hasn’t been through it.
“So I’m lucky. I cannot believe how much support there is out there for me. Once my story became known, I was overwhelmed by [the support].
‘‘I also want to thank my treating psychiatrist Dr Selwyn Smith, my psychologist, all the staff at St John of God Hospital and my wonderful family and friends.’’
The Mercury has invited MetLife to comment.