7th of May 2021

Chief Commissioner Shane Patton has told his personnel they are not above the law, and promised he will not turn a blind eye to any serious misconduct (“Top cop puts police on notice” – Herald Sun, 30/4/21).

That is entirely as it should be – but it has to be asked, is it too little too late? And, is it only aimed at the lower echelon?

CAA has repeatedly drawn attention to serious misconduct by very senior public officials – including police and politicians – usually with evidence offered or pointed out.  We have always stood ready to back up our claims.

So many police chiefs in the past ignored those reports (contrary to their Duty, it must be said) that it almost became a way of life.  A couple of fat cats were allowed to retire without penalty but the machine basically rolled on undeterred.

Mr. Patton’s reminder is well overdue – and it should not be necessary of course.  But the very fact that Mr. Patton has had to resort to this public message demonstrates that somewhere in the past some very wrong messages were sent out – and received.  So who allowed a dysfunctional culture to apparently take hold?  Who was so corrupt, incompetent or lazy in the past that people within the organisation just got the wrong messages?

And that, in turn, compels us to call for Mr. Patton to look more closely and more accountably at the information which has been previously handed to his organisation – to look for root causes.  As Winston Churchill, among others, have warned – those who ignore the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.

Some commentators believe heavier penalties ought to be levied against a person named Pusey, to reflect society’s rejection of his bad behaviour; similarly we believe those corrupt, incompetent or lazy police leaders who brought Vicpol to its present state should be held to account.

They cannot be allowed to just ride off into the sunset, for if that happens we will have overtly sent out more wrong signals.

If there are no negative repercussions for misconduct it will tend to be repeated.  If there are no sanctions others are likely to be tempted to try it on.

Simplistic?  Perhaps – but not as simplistic as idle threats or idealistic hopes alone.  The rhetoric must be matched with action; and the action ought to be directed at those who brought this to pass in the first place.