- Excessive use of force.
- Favouritism, including poorly managed conflicts of interest. IBAC has repeatedly identified issues with the proper identification and management of conflicts of interest by Victoria Police employees, including through reviews of Victoria Police’s internal investigations into complaints. These can undermine confidence in the investigation and therefore in the police.
- Inaction, including obscuring behaviours such as failure to investigate or report colleagues’ misconduct or lying to protect a colleague.
- Organised crime infiltration of police or police having friendships or other associations with criminals.
- Use of illicit drugs which exposes officers to blackmail and compromise.
- Misuse of resources, particularly the unauthorised access and disclosure of police information for personal benefit.
- Predatory behaviour or other abuses of position for a sexual purpose, and sexual harassment.
- Bullying and harassment.
Corruption and misconduct risks in the police sector
Highlighting the enduring and emerging corruption and misconduct risks for police identified through IBAC’s work and providing insights from IBAC’s investigations and reviews of internal investigations.
IBAC’s Annual Plan 2023/24 identifies five strategic areas of focus to guide our work to prevent and expose public sector corruption and police misconduct in 2023/24. These focus areas have been informed by our intelligence assessments, complaints and notifications data and stakeholder consultation. The three strategic focus areas for the agency’s police oversight work are:
- high-risk police units, divisions and regions
- We focus on police misconduct in identified high-risk regions, divisions, and work units within Victoria Police. We develop strategies to strengthen IBAC’s oversight of Victoria Police and increase its ability to reduce the prevalence of misconduct.
- Excessive use of force on people, including use of force on people at risk
- Approximately one quarter of IBAC’s investigations into police involve allegations of excessive use of force, with many of these focused on Victoria Police interactions with people who are diverse or experience vulnerability or marginalisation. These investigations can result in court action and recommended prevention actions for Victoria Police to implement to minimise the risk of excessive use of force. We will continue to expose and seek to prevent excessive use of force by police, corrections and other public sector officers against Victorians, including those experiencing vulnerability.
- police responses to police family violence incidents and predatory behaviour
- We aim to prevent and expose inappropriate Victoria Police responses to family violence and predatory behaviour incidents involving police. Consistent police responses are critical to maintain community trust and reduce the prevalence of these behaviours by police officers and employees.
Additionally, IBAC has a continuing focus on:
- Obscuring behaviours - attempt to cover up, or obscure, misconduct and corruption
- Obscuring behaviours occur when people who are directly involved in or witness corruption or misconduct conceal or fail to accurately disclose it. Or when managers or supervisors fail to rigorously inquire about, report misconduct; or actively conceal misconduct.
- Unauthorised information access and disclosure of information held by Victoria Police is an enduring risk due to the high volume of confidential and personal information the organisation holds. This conduct can be motivated by curiosity, to benefit personal or associates’ interests (including for ideological or politically motivated disclosures), or be ‘noble cause corruption’ where the police officer believes the end justified the means. In 2022, following IBAC making recommendations for legislative reform in its December 2021 special report, Operation Dawson: An investigation into alleged misconduct by a former Victoria Police Superintendent, the Government amended the Victoria Police Act 2013 (Vic) to provide a clear obligation for police personnel to only access, make use of or disclose police information they have a demonstrable, legitimate need for, which arises from and is directly related to the performance of their current duties or functions.
IBAC investigations into alleged excessive use of force
IBAC investigated allegations of excessive force against a 15 year old person with a police baton by an officer in Melbourne’s northern suburbs in January 2018. In 2021, the officer pleaded guilty to one charge of aggravated unlawful assault with a weapon, and was convicted and sentenced with a $10,000 fine. Also as a result of IBAC’s Operation Durack, vulnerabilities with the recording of Victoria Police’s use of force data were identified. Victoria Police advised IBAC of future development of its systems to improve the recording and reporting of use of force data, as part of Victoria Police’s Use of Force Project. This will enhance both Victoria Police and IBAC’s oversight of trends in use of force in the future.
Operation Poros was an investigation into allegations that a senior constable from a Police Station in Gippsland had assaulted a prisoner in the custody area in September 2017. IBAC found sufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations against the senior constable and they subsequently received a conviction and a 12-month good behaviour bond, which was upheld after appeal.
As part of IBAC’s findings, vulnerabilities regarding the safe handling of firearms in the custody area of police stations were identified and raised with Victoria Police. Victoria Police advised IBAC that it had reviewed organisational procedures and updated training modules and conducted an audit of local standard operating procedures and equipment warning signage.
Operation Henty was an investigation into allegations of excessive use of force by Victoria Police officers when they attended a house in Preston to conduct a welfare check on a pensioner in September 2017. The incident was captured on CCTV. On 24 July 2020, three Victoria Police officers were found guilty of unlawful assault and on 29 July 2020, received adjourned undertakings without conviction.
A constable and senior constable both received an adjourned undertaking of 12 months, with $1000 to be paid into the court fund. Another senior constable received an adjourned undertaking of 12 months, with $3500 to be paid into the court fund. The two senior constables appealed their convictions. Guilty verdicts were returned in both instances in the County Court of Victoria on 3 March 2021, and the original penalties were re-imposed.
As part of Operation Henty, IBAC identified several police attending the incident – who were witnesses to at least some of the misconduct – had failed to report it as required under s167 (3) of the Victoria Police Act 2013. In response, Victoria Police undertook a range of initiatives to strengthen the ethical capability of their employees, including increasing the training and awareness of police officers’ obligations to report misconduct and the process for doing so.
Operation Ross investigated allegations of excessive force by police officers against a vulnerable female (Person A) in Ballarat in 2015. Operation Ross also examined incidents of alleged unnecessary and/or excessive use of force against three other vulnerable women at Ballarat Police Station in recent years.
IBAC observed the incidents were ‘evidence of systemic issues at Ballarat Police Station including excessive use of force and questionable treatment of vulnerable people.’
Operation Ross exposed a ‘casual disregard and at times mistreatment of a vulnerable woman in police custody’ who was intoxicated and experiencing mental health issues. IBAC found that while in police custody, Person A was ‘kicked and stood on while in a subdued and compliant state’ and was ‘denied appropriate care and at times, her human rights were disregarded.’
At the conclusion of this investigation, IBAC made several recommendations including Victoria Police review and enhance training provided to officers on the Charter of Human Rights to improve officers’ understanding of and compliance with the Charter of Human Rights. Victoria Police responded to IBACs Operation Ross in 2019.
IBAC investigations into alleged criminal associations and use of illicit drugs
In June 2015, IBAC commenced Operation Apsley, an investigation into allegations a police officer was involved in the use, possession and trafficking of illicit drugs. IBAC’s Operation Hotham (2014) and Operation Yarrowitch (2016) also investigated the alleged use, possession and trafficking of illicit drugs by police officers.
In 2016, IBAC produced a Special Report concerning illicit drug use by Victoria Police officers that included the three matters and as a result, IBAC made a recommendation to the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police to undertake a comprehensive review of the use of illicit drugs by Victoria Police officers, as well as associated policies, systems and practices to inform the development and implementation of a more robust framework to prevent and detect police illicit drug use. Victoria Police provided progress reports in June 2017, August 2021, and August 2022. Key reforms taken by Victoria Police to implement the recommendations include:
- increasing the rate of random drug and alcohol testing of police personnel to 30 per cent each year
- reviewing and amending the alcohol and other drugs policy framework to reinforce the Victoria Police position in relation to the use of illicit drugs and appropriate welfare and support arrangements for officers detected using illicit drugs
- identifying and exploring opportunities for legislative reform to strengthen the drug and alcohol testing framework for Victoria Police personnel
- increased and targeted communications and guides delivered to personnel to raise awareness of testing and risks of alcohol and other drugs.
IBAC investigations into alleged misuse of resources and information
Operation Genoa was a 2017 IBAC investigation that found a detective had disclosed information to associates, including those they had met through their ongoing association with an adult entertainment venue. The detective resigned under investigation and subsequently pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to unauthorised access, use and disclosure of police information, being fined $3000 without conviction.
Vulnerabilities identified included management oversight, employment welfare issues such as financial stress, gifts and benefits, IT systems, and declarable associations. Victoria Police provided a detailed response indicating their review of procedures for preventing and detecting information misuses.
In 2016, PSC implemented the Ethical Health Assessment Process (EHAP) focusing on staff behaviours. The EHAP is an early intervention model that is supported via an automated alert system".
IBAC investigations into alleged improper administration of justice
Operation Gloucester was an investigation into improper evidentiary and disclosure practices in relation to the Victoria Police investigation of the murders of Sergeant Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rodney Miller. IBAC first commenced Operation Gloucester in 2015 but closed it in early 2016 due to insufficient evidence. In 2017, IBAC re-opened the investigation following new evidence being obtained.
Operation Gloucester identiﬁed a variety of improper practices by police ofﬁcers with respect to witness statements which did not comply with proper evidentiary and disclosure practices. A number of these practices were used by some ofﬁcers connected to the Lorimer Taskforce investigation and prosecutions for the murders.
IBAC published a Special Report which included recommendations to Victoria Police to review and amend policies and training to ensure police officers ‘fully understand and comply with their obligations regarding evidence gathering and disclosure practices in investigations of criminal conduct, with a focus on statements and record keeping.’
Victoria Police provided a progress report on its response to IBAC’s recommendations in July 2021.
Operation Pipers is an example of the separate roles that IBAC and Victoria Police play in the police oversight system. In 2018, IBAC received a notification from Victoria Police regarding allegations that a detective had falsified statements of no complaint in order to close investigations allocated to him between 2014 and 2018. At the time of the notification, Victoria Police had interviewed the detective and he had made admissions to the conduct.
While IBAC decided to investigate, the matter had been thoroughly investigated by Victoria Police and IBAC agreed with Victoria Police’s course of action. IBAC formally referred the matter to Victoria Police and discontinued its investigation.
As part of Victoria Police’s investigation, further examples of falsifications by the detective were uncovered. The detective was ultimately convicted and sentenced to an 18-month community corrections order, which included 100 hours of unpaid work.
IBAC investigations into alleged poor leadership and culture
IBAC published two Special Reports in 2021 that considered the actions of senior police in separate incidents. Operation Turon found, in 2017, an Assistant Commissioner engaged in police misconduct through online ‘trolling’, both on and off duty, including in relation to matters relevant to Victoria Police and with information he obtained in the course of his duties. Operation Dawson found a Superintendent in 2017 used his position to obtain and disclose police information without authorisation, about investigations in which he had a personal, rather than a professional, interest.
IBAC’s Operation Salina investigated allegations that a then Victoria Police sergeant fraudulently took possession of a number of vacant residential properties in 2018. The former sergeant also used another employee’s Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP) login without their knowledge to unlawfully access information related to the properties.
As part of Operation Salina, IBAC charged the former sergeant and a former Victoria Police inspector with a range of offences in November 2018, including perjury, misconduct in public office, obtaining property by deception and theft.
The former sergeant was sentenced to four years and six months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of two years and four months, for obtaining property by deception, unlawfully accessing police records and perjury. The former inspector pleaded guilty to perjury and failing to produce a document or other thing, and was convicted and fined $5000.
IBAC reviews police investigations into allegations of internal misconduct or corruption to ensure they are appropriately managed in accordance with public expectations. We make sure they are thorough, impartial and timely, that findings are evidence-based and outcomes fair and reasonable. IBAC also conducts audits of Victoria Police’s internal investigations.
- Recording of critical decision making by police in investigations can be inconsistent and result in IBAC identifying inadequate investigative actions by Victoria Police
- Competence of the internal police investigators can vary significantly especially from Professional Standards Command to regional areas where the regional Ethics and Professional Standards Officer coordinates the allocation of files and assists investigators. IBAC’s reviews have identified that some officers are not adequately trained or skilled in how to conduct robust internal investigations.
- In some instances, there are questions around whether officers are deliberately concealing poor behaviour or failing to report it. This can be by officers who witness the initial incident subject to investigation or by the officer completing the internal investigation.
- Poor identification and declarations of perceived or actual conflicts of interest by officers conducting the internal investigation
- Inconsistent approaches to how complainants and witnesses are engaged or managed, especially when investigating serious incidents
- Improvement in recent years in addressing and applying the charter of human rights in its internal investigations of complaints. This reflects improved investigation policies and practices in this area.