4th April 2019
This case starts off fairly benignly with a respected country Detective Sergeant with substantial service including a period in the Homicide Squad and an unblemished record of service in a large provincial Victorian town. 3842 was responsible for dealing with the crime in this large town and a large swathe of the surrounding rural areas.
He had also lived in the town with his family for a number of years and was very well known and respected by locals. Although he did not seek promotion, he was content with his lot and comfortable that he was doing some good keeping his community safe.
The wheels started to come unstuck when one Sunday after returning from leave 3842 was contacted by a uniform member from the station to tell him he was going out to search a rural property where there had been a sizable burglary while 3842 was on leave. 3842 was aware of the burglary, and he was concerned because a firearm collection was part of the bounty that had a total value of approximately $100,000.
Subsequently, the uniform member made a second call to 3842 to say that he had located some of the stolen property in a disused dilapidated caravan on the vast property. The farm was some distance from town in a remote part of the bush and some thirty to forty minutes travelling time, well off the beaten track.
When he did arrive the member that had called him was waiting and on the ground was a badly injured male person whom the 3842 did not recognise but later found out he was a very active crook with substantial prior convictions from interstate.
3842 called an ambulance, and the injured suspect was put under guard, and 3842 started to piece together what had happened.
The police member that called him to the scene was suspended at the time for other matters, but the suspect was loosely related to him and had fallen on hard times. The suspended Police member approached the property owner who had a vacant manager’s house to see if the suspect could use it. The property owner is very wealthy and is also very generous and agreed to the arrangement.
The injuries to the suspect were significant and were explained by the suspended member as, when he confronted the suspect, the suspect allegedly produced and attacked him with a screwdriver. Much later 3842 had reservations about this version of events.
Because of the injury to the suspect, the Duty Senior Sergeant contacted Professional Standards Command (PSC) and two detectives from PSC were dispatched to the town arriving the next day.
To the absolute surprise of 3842, he was removed from the case, and it was transferred to another Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU) some substantial distance away. Very odd because they would lack the local knowledge essential in this investigation.
It did not take long for 3842 to find out that he was in trouble for something although he was bewildered about what he had done that was wrong.
A formal interview by Professional Standards Command (PSC)of 3842 followed, and he was subsequently suspended from duty and charged with,’ attempting to pervert the course of justice‘.
The allegation was that when he spoke to a relative of the farmer in Town to update him on the investigation, he allegedly refused to listen to information from the relative. This was the crime?
After the formal interview, some substantial time elapsed and he was called in to be charged and suspended.
3842 had the unenviable task of telling his family he had been suspended and charged which devastated them. Something he still becomes emotional about.
3842 also endured the devastation and embarrassment peculiar to a country town where people can not enjoy the anonymity of a big city. Something from which he has never recovered.
The suspension was not treated in confidence, and it was not long before most of the town who knew him were aware of his suspension and knew it was as a result of the robbery on the highly regarded Farmer who is a district icon.
Being shunned in a country town has no parallel in the metropolitan area or a large provincial city.
Having been charged with an indictable offence, the matter must go for Trial before a Judge and Jury. However, the process involves a Committal hearing at a Magistrate’s Court to determine whether there is a case to answer. The suspended policeman referred to earlier was charged as a co-accused of 3842.
At the Committal hearing, it was determined that 3842 had no case to answer and his matter was dismissed. The co-accused was committed for trial and subsequently was acquitted at trial on the basis that he was acting in self-defence. A solid defence that should have been obvious to the PSC.
One would expect having had the matter dealt with, that would be the end of it, and 3842 could return to work and try to rebuild his damaged reputation.
That was not to be. The Police Executive decided to direct 3842 to take all accrued leave and long service leave.
As they had not succeeded with the criminal matter, they then embarked on a disciplinary approach to target 3842.
Management was within their rights to exercise this instruction, but by this time 3842 was not in a good mental state, and he was placed on sick leave by his doctor.
While on sick leave he was advised that there were some disciplinary charges and he had to face a hearing.
Bearing in mind that his health was still fragile he appeared before the disciplinary hearing and all but one of the charges was struck out leaving a single charge to which he was advised by his legal counsel to plead guilty.
As a result of this plea, he received a caution.
What will surprise readers is that the offence that was sustained was for failing to put crime scene tape around a crime scene at a remote property miles from any town and a long way from any public road.
It is not surprising that 3842 who had weathered this cyclone for over two years broke down at this hearing.
It took nearly eight months for 3842 to be reinstated – no apology and in contrast to when he was originally suspended by three senior officers his reinstatement was by a message from his local station.
For all he had endured he was convicted of not putting crime scene tape around the scene of the robbery.
What is particularly galling to 3842 is that the somebody from PSC having failed to get 3842 committed for trial went back to the witness relative of the farmer, and tried to get him to change his story. This information to 3842 came from a member of the police executive that we can presume was not comfortable with what was going on.
Whoever approached the witness has committed an egregious crime.
That approach is Prima Facie,’ attempting to pervert the course of justice.’ Even worse, the original suspect has never been charged with the $100,000 burglary, a very serious crime by any measure and even more so because there is little doubt that the gun collection is now circulating in the criminal community.
In summary 3842 has had his life ruined and now suffers permanent health issues as a direct result of this fiasco when his only offence was not putting crime scene tape around a remote crime scene where the greatest risk to contamination of the crime scene would have been the local kangaroo population.
3842 has now retired and after nearly forty years of devoted service and only one crime scene tape blemish, he did not even receive a call from anybody in management to formally thank him for his service and to wish him well.
The sad thing is that 3842 still suffers from the treatment metered out by the Police Force, and in our experience 3842 displays all the symptoms of PTSD induced by Judicial Personnel Management.
He now has to live with the consequences for the rest of his life and the two detectives from PSC, and the crook responsible for the burglary get off scot-free, as do the managers who promoted this artifice.
Recently one of his own former detectives told 3842 that when the matter was going on, he had the opportunity to see the Brief that the two PSC detectives had compiled. He commented that if he submitted such a poor brief, it would never be authorised. The PSC member responded, ”Yeah, but he is a police member.”
Clearly one rule for the crooks, and another for Police.
Victoria Police must be held to account.
The Community Advocacy Alliance Inc. calls for the urgent formation of a Commission of Review to examine this and many other instances of the mismanagement bordering on criminal behaviour of Victoria Police and the cruel and unconscionable processes applied to Police members by the hierarchy.
Ultimately the responsibility for this behaviour is the Chief Commissioner the one person that can fix it.
Postscript: When 3842 was first interviewed the investigators accused him of was not wearing his issue Operational Safety and Tactical Training (OSTT) equipment. Detectives at that stage had not been issued a belt to carry the equipment. Talk about pedantic. Bizarrely the interviewing detectives were without their equipment belts. A demonstration of absolute power no doubt.