Victorian police officers faked 258,000 breath tests over five years, lose $4m in funding
FOLLOWING revelations that police faked more than 250,000 breath tests, it has been revealed why cops did it. And how much it will cost them.
VICTORIA Police has admitted it is “incredibly disappointed” with its members after a report revealed more than 250,000 random breath-tests had been faked over the past five years.
A shocking internal report, released last night, revealed officers had faked more than 1.5 per cent of its 17.7 million preliminary roadside breath tests (PBTs), many of whom are believed to have blown into the straw breathalysers themselves to meet quotas or to avoid breath testing motorists.
In the wake of the damning statistics, Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission (TAC) has suspended the $4 million in annual funding it gives to the state’s police force.
In a press conference this morning, Assistant Commissioner for Professional Standards Command Russell Barrett said the TAC provides funding for Victoria Police to help it “reduce road trauma”.
The $4 million is also put towards overtime payment for officers policing the roads during holiday periods.
Victoria Police first became aware of the potential anomaly late last year when the TAC expressed concern.
After the TAC suggested there might be a problem with the statistics, Victoria Police conducted “one of the most complex and lengthy investigations of that data”, AC Barrett said.
The state’s force will now commence the “largest workplace guidance exercise undertaken by Victoria Police,” Mr Barrett said.
“We will be going to every workplace and speaking to every member and explaining why this practice is wrong, what their roles are and why we need the trust and support of the community,” he added.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Barrett said Victoria Police would make sure the misconduct was “never going to happen again”.
“Last night, we issued a directive to all members of Victoria Police that this practice will stop and stop immediately. We’ve explained to them that from today on, this practice will not be tolerated,” he said.
Mr Barrett said it was “not an isolated incident, it was widespread behaviour”.
Following the release of the report, the state’s police association claimed its members were overworked and “under-resourced”.
Mr Barrett was unable to confirm if local stations were giving officers PBT quotas but said all members of the force should be effectively enforcing road laws.
“We don’t step away from the fact that it’s reasonable for us to ask our members to go out and enforce those provisions of road policing laws,” Mr Barrett said.
“We expect you to go out there and undertake PBTs so we can maximise the opportunity to reduce road trauma on our roads,” he added.
He would not speculate exactly why officers were faking tests but did say there was no “financial incentive” for members.
“I don’t think we can move away from the fact that it would enhance productivity of certain individuals and it would enhance their reputation if they’re seen to be more productive,” he said.
Victoria Police issued a statement shortly before 8.30pm on Wednesday declaring they had “let the community down”.
The statement included an admission that the practice involves “an officer either (placing) a finger over the straw entry hole or (blowing) into the straw themselves”.
“It is believed the self-testing activity has been largely undertaken by general duties and highway patrol members, with some rural areas over-represented,” the statement said.
“It is not a practice found to be performed at supervised drug and alcohol bus testing sites.”
The activity was first reported to Victoria Police late last year.
Once aware of the claims, an intelligence assessment was undertaken that involved “a very complex and protracted” analysis of five years of data, 1500 PBT devices and more than 17.7 million tests.
“Disappointingly (the tests) found 258,463 PBTs or 1.5 per cent of all tests had been falsified,” Mr Barrett said.
“This conduct will not be tolerated, any member found engaging in this practice from today has been put on notice they will be investigated.
“I had not heard of our members engaging in such a practice, we let ourselves down, we’ve let the community down. It stops now.”
Victoria Police is in the process of appointing an external investigator to determine “the root causes of the behaviour”, “underlying cultural and behavioural issues” and “supervision and management practices that resulted in the behaviour continuing to go unchecked”.
“The question we all asked was ‘why?’ There could be a number of reasons but the main rationale I believe is to hide or highlight productivity,” Mr Barrett said.
“Whatever reason our workforce may come up with, it isn’t acceptable.
“As disappointing as this is, it should be noted that, at this stage in the investigation, there is no evidence to suggest fraud or any criminality has occurred. Similarly, there is nothing to suggest that any of this activity has impacted on any prosecutions.”
Police are hoping to lean on technical advice about how to future-proof testing devices.
“In moving forward we are looking into a number of options for improving and increasing our internal controls and accountability in regard to our testing regime,” Mr Barrett said.
“We are considering the feasibility of regular audits, the ability for the PBT to include the detail of the operator and quality assurance measures.”
Victoria Police is in discussions with IBAC about the matter.
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