Falsification of preliminary breath test results by Victoria Police

This summary focuses on the review of four Victoria Police investigations into allegations that police officers were falsifying Preliminary Breath Test results.

IBAC's independent oversight of Victoria Police focuses on ensuring police act fairly and in accordance with the law. Part of this important role is to review internal police investigations to ensure they are thorough and impartial.

In 2021, IBAC completed reviews of 143 police investigations.

Following an IBAC review, we work with Victoria Police to drive improvements and provide input into the development of police policies to reduce police misconduct. Ultimately, our reviews result in actions to improve the outcomes for victims and complainants.

  • In February 2018, Victoria Police advised IBAC that more than 250,000 preliminary breath tests (PBTs) appeared to have been falsified by some police officers, allegedly to meet testing quotas.

    With the agreement of IBAC, Victoria Police established Taskforce Deliver led by former Chief Commissioner Neil Comrie AO, APM to conduct an investigation into the falsification of PBTs by Victoria Police officers and prepare a report. In November 2018, Taskforce Deliver concluded that the practice of falsification of PBTs by officers was widespread and made 23 recommendations to Victoria Police to address the identified issues. IBAC has been overseeing Victoria Police's implementation of the Taskforce Deliver recommendations.

    Victoria Police also conducted four individual investigations into alleged falsification of PBTs, instigated because of potential aggravating circumstances identified during Taskforce Deliver. These aggravating circumstances included bullying, harassment and abuse of position or seniority.

    As part of its police oversight role, IBAC reviewed these four internal investigations to ensure they were conducted thoroughly and impartially. The reviews were conducted individually between August – November 2021.

  • In June 2018, a complaint was made to IBAC alleging breath tests were falsified by police officers from Oakleigh Police Station. The complaint alleged that police officers were directed to conduct PBTs on themselves when they were not busy to falsely increase the number of tests conducted. The complaint was referred to Victoria Police but the investigation was unable to substantiate the allegations due to insufficient evidence.

  • In November 2018, Victoria Police investigated the falsification of PBTs in the Knox police service area after 1708 PBTs were conducted across 16 shifts. It was determined 28 of the PBTs were falsified and police officers admitted wrongdoing. Victoria Police took disciplinary action against the police officers involved.

  • In November 2018, Victoria Police investigated the falsification of PBTs by a metropolitan highway patrol unit. The complainant alleged the practice of falsifying PBTs was the result of cultural issues at Fawkner Highway Patrol and promoted by senior police officers. The investigation substantiated the falsification of PBTs and Victoria Police took disciplinary action against the police officers involved.

  • In July 2019, Victoria Police investigated allegations of the falsification of PBTs by the Road Policing Drug and Alcohol Section during the 2016/17 period. The investigation identified 83 questionable tests over five shifts but was unable to substantiate the allegations due to insufficient evidence.

    • All four Victoria Police investigations were conducted in accordance with Victoria Police policies, with no identified breaches of any investigative or disciplinary policy and procedures.
    • The evidence collected for each investigation was adequate and included the retrieval of PBT electronic returns, electronic patrol data returns, statements, records of interviews, forensic interrogation and analysis of email and database systems, as well as the evaluation and review of personnel files.
    • All relevant statements were recorded and, where appropriate, interviews were conducted in accordance with the relevant legislation.
    • The findings in each investigation were consistent with the evidence collected.
    • Conflict of interest declarations were examined to ensure they were completed, signed and attached to the investigation files. IBAC's reviews identified a declared conflict of interest in one of the cases which was managed and did not compromise the investigation.
    • Appropriate disciplinary action was taken against police officers where investigations had substantiated the allegations. These disciplinary actions included written admonishments and formal workplace guidance which are recorded on the police officer's Victoria Police Employment Record.
    • The investigations were found to have been conducted thoroughly and impartially.
  • IBAC's reviews found Victoria Police conducted the four investigations into the falsification of PBTs adequately.

    As of January 2022, Victoria Police had actioned 18 of the 23 Taskforce Deliver recommendations. Victoria Police is continuing work on the remaining five recommendations. 

    IBAC continues to engage with Victoria Police on its implementation of the recommendations as part of IBAC’s independent police oversight role.