IBAC special report highlights corruption and police misconduct risks related to social media use
In a special report tabled to Parliament today the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) has highlighted corruption and police misconduct risks associated with inappropriate social media use and online commentary by a senior police officer.
The special report focuses on IBAC's Operation Turon investigation which found a senior police officer, former Assistant Commissioner Brett Guerin, committed police misconduct by making racist, homophobic and other offensive posts on social media to elicit a reaction while using pseudonyms. This misconduct occurred both on and off duty, including in relation to matters relevant to Victoria Police and with information Mr Guerin obtained in the course of his duties, at times using Victoria Police information technology.
At the time, Mr Guerin was the Assistant Commissioner of Victoria Police's Professional Standards Command (PSC), which is responsible for enhancing and promoting a culture of high ethical standards throughout Victoria Police, including managing the intake, assessment and investigation of complaints against Victoria Police and its employees.
IBAC found Mr Guerin's seniority was an aggravating feature contributing to the seriousness of his conduct, as he should have been aware he was putting Victoria Police’s reputation and activities at risk by commenting on investigations and other matters of interest.
Mr Guerin's conduct did not comply with Victoria Police values, or the standards expected of a high-ranking Victoria Police member as outlined in the Victoria Police Act 2013 (Vic) and Victoria Police’s policies.
IBAC's investigation resulted in Mr Guerin resigning from Victoria Police. IBAC did not find any evidence that his decision‑making as Assistant Commissioner PSC was compromised by any underlying beliefs or views. While his conduct was offensive and inappropriate, it did not meet the standard required to file charges under the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). As a result, no criminal charges were laid.
IBAC Commissioner The Honourable Robert Redlich AM, QC said Operation Turon demonstrates the significant detrimental impacts police misconduct can have on a person and their career, as well as on the community's confidence in Victoria Police.
"Mr Guerin’s career with Victoria Police ended prematurely and compromised both his and the organisation’s reputation. It also had a negative impact on the work he and Victoria Police had done to strengthen the community’s trust and confidence in Victoria Police," Commissioner Redlich said.
At the conclusion of the Operation Turon investigation in 2019, IBAC made recommendations to Victoria Police to strengthen its policies, systems and practices related to social media and recruitment.
As a result of IBAC's investigation, Victoria Police revised its social media policy. These changes were aimed at ensuring employees are aware of their obligations to use social media appropriately, as well as the consequences of inappropriate social media use. Victoria Police is also reviewing the viability of introducing psychometric testing for the recruitment and promotion of senior leaders.
The special report includes a recommendation that, within 12 months, Victoria Police reports to IBAC on the outcomes of a review of its leadership and promotional frameworks including its approach to mitigating the specific police misconduct and corruption risks identified in Operation Turon.
"Although Victoria Police has strengthened policies, systems and practices in response to Operation Turon, unauthorised information disclosure, including through social media, remains a serious and enduring misconduct risk for Victoria Police. This is demonstrated by the complaints IBAC continues to receive, and a recent prominent case that has resulted in charges being brought against several officers for their roles in distributing police information relating to a person in custody," Commissioner Redlich said.
"It is important that Victoria Police remains ever vigilant to these risks and continues to promote to its employees the importance of ethical conduct and maintaining the confidentiality of police information both on and off duty.
"IBAC is continuing to work with Victoria Police to help ensure police employees act with integrity and in accordance with the organisation’s values, policies, processes and code of conduct, including when using social media," Commissioner Redlich said.
IBAC is Victoria's agency responsible for preventing and exposing public sector corruption and police misconduct. To report corruption and misconduct now, visit www.ibac.vic.gov.au/report or call 1300 735 135.
IBAC's independent oversight of Victoria Police helps ensure police act fairly, impartially and according to the law.
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