Insurance companies should be prevented from placing former police officers under covert surveillance unless they can demonstrate reason to believe the officers are exaggerating their psychological symptoms or acting dishonestly, NSW MP David Shoebridge says.
And he says insurance companies found to have ordered surveillance without good reason should be fined or face litigation.
Mr Shoebridge believes changes are needed to stop the unnecessary aggressive and relentless tactics used to investigate total and permanent disability claims of psychologically ill police officers.
"The reports we get are that almost every claim has obtrusive, unwarranted covert surveillance and when you're talking about police officers with mental health issues that exacerbates their situation," he said.
More than 100 police officers, including many from the Illawarra, are awaiting finalisation of their TPD claims. The existing scheme involves the trustee, First State Super Corporation, contracted with the insurer MetLife to provide benefits for officers injured in the line of duty.
The Illawarra Mercury has exposed many cases of ex-police officers awaiting determination of their claims who say aggressive and relentless surveillance has hindered their treatment and recovery and at times made them suicidal.
Mr Shoebridge suggests making insurance companies establish a prima facie case internally before authorising surveillance.
He says the insurance company should have to justify to either the NSW Police Force or First State Super that the covert surveillance is necessary.
"That would be an obvious starting point. An option is to put a penalty clause in the insurance policy or make legislative changes regarding covert surveillance," Mr Shoebridge said.
"That way if a case is litigated and there is a finding that the surveillance wasn't reasonably justified, a penalty is paid or a form of exemplary damages is payable," he said.
"I actually think the latter, putting a sting in the tail would be very valuable. If they can't justify covert surveillance it goes to litigation."
Mr Shoebridge says the onus of proof should rest with the insurance company, which must "also show it gave genuine consideration to the possible detriment that may be caused to the person's health in deciding whether to initiate surveillance".
He said the use of covert surveillance in cases of PTSD, where symptoms include hypervigilance and paranoia, is considered particularly problematic by mental health experts who consider it as likely to impede recovery.
Mr Shoebridge spoke to the Mercury on the eve of the release of his 11 recommendations from the December 2014 Parliamentary Forum on Police Psychological Injuries.
He consulted with legal and mental health experts who participated in the forum and has drawn on the contribution of sick police officers and their families.
"Many psychologically injured police report they have been the subject of covert surveillance for periods of two or more years," he said.
The image of ex-detective sergeant John Reisp on the front page of the Mercury opened the floodgates for former police officers across the state sharing stories of relentless private investigators on their tail as they waited years for news on their payments.
Mr Reisp, who was photographed by an insurance company investigator "appearing to smile" at his son's football game, said felt like he was being hunted like a criminal.
Mr Shoebridge says the government and First State Super must immediately intervene to resolve the backlog of claims and if necessary take "proactive legal steps".
"FSS Corporation and the NSW government should immediately obtain legal advice on what legal avenues are available to them that will compel MetLife to comply with its duty of utmost good faith," Mr Shoebridge said.
"Delays in assessing claims of two or more years, excessive surveillance and outright refusal to finally determine claims prima facie amount to breaches of MetLife's duty of good faith," he said.
"Putting their hands up and saying it's all too hard and leaving individual police to handle their claims is failing to live up to their duty of care".